Sunday, January 31, 2016

Prepping to be Schooled (a.k.a. ALL OF THE THINGS)

WARNING:  Because I haven't written in a while this may be a bit longer than usual.  I also haven't had much time to take proper pictures for you, so I may have been putting it off a little.  I apologize.  I've provided subtitles if you'd prefer to skip around.

Recent News and Finished Objects

Well, the slew of knitting classes I signed up for have just begun.  I've been spending the last week or so winding balls of yarn, checking and rechecking my toolbox for everything I might want or need at hand, and trying to decide when to do my homework.  Too far ahead and the reading might not be so fresh in my mind, but I don't want to wait too long either.  I don't want to be that one person who's not prepared- it's been a while since I've been in school and I forgot how exciting it can be!

Show-off Stranded Socks in Malabrigo Arco Iris
I've finished a couple pairs of socks in the last week or so and started another, but it feels like the socks I've been making myself aren't quite perfect yet.  They start out comfortable, but as the day wears own they start to get a bit baggy and feel too loose.  I actually got the heel turned for sock 1 in the last pair and ripped the whole thing out to start a smaller size, thinking my gauge was to account for it.  When I took the pair off the needles, they fit perfectly, but then it happened again.  Shortly into my day they got a bit baggy, though not as bad as the pair before.  I was ready to rip my hair out.

So I went to my first knitting class, Mittens and Socks from Measurements, and I had a blast!  It was great to be working and mingling with other knitters, sharing tips, and working out the material.  Someone in class asked if they could swatch for the project at home so they'd have a chance to wash the superwash yarn she was using.  I thought that odd, because it's superwash- it's static, right?  Turns out superwash loosens up oh so slightly when it's heated (like in the dryer).  Could this be the answer I'm looking for?  I think I'll need to investigate.

Works in Progress and Plans

So I had been working on socks before the classes started so I wouldn't be too invested in anything while classes were on.  I'll be doing homework while working a full time job so a sensible move, right?  I don't know what possessed me, but I've started working on another pet project I've had in mind on top of all of that.  I made myself a Shibuya top a few years ago, a pattern from Berroco #308 Vintage DK & Vintage.  I really loved it and wore it quite a bit but, when I started to gain some weight it didn't fit anymore.  I think I've finally given up on the idea of shrinking significantly enough to ever fit into it again, and I had an extra skein left over from the original project, so I've reclaimed the yarn and I'm starting over.

With my new shape, cap sleeves also aren't the most flattering look for me, so I'm thinking I'll make a few adjustments (and do the math- ugh!) to make it into a cute vest.  More flattering and less yarn- it should be a win-win.  I hope...  While I'll be pretty busy over the next few weeks and months, it's also good to have a familiar pattern to work with- something I can pick up and put down easily.

And then I lost my mind.  I watch a lot of podcasts and nearly everyone is hosting a knit-a-long at the moment, really awesome knit-a-longs.  I feel like I must participate.  I MUST.  <sigh>  I'm going to list them below with links to the Ravelry groups, in case you're interested in checking them out.

Bakery Bears Podcast - Choose Your Muppet KAL

This one's got me really excited.  Viewers have been asked to carefully select a Muppet that they are most inspired by or feel represents themselves and knit a project inspired by the character.  How fantastic!  This KAL runs from February 1st to March 31st.

It took a lot of thought to decide, but I finally picked Gonzo.  He's a little different and really adventurous and it never even occurs to him that his behavior is the least bit odd.  He embraces his uniqueness and I love him.  <3  When I made the decision, I immediately thought of this yarn I was gifted that I've never known what to do with.  It's crazy and odd but I want to make it into something squishy and lovable, just like Gonzo.  It's going to be quite the challenge, but I think I'm up to it.

YarnGasm Podcast - Box O' Sox KAL

You can include any socks started on or after January 1st this year and will end on January 1, 2017.  The idea is to knit a box full of socks (had you figured that bit out yet?), at least one pair per month of the year.  Like I mentioned in my New Year's Resolution post, I wanted to knit a bunch of socks before next Christmas as is, to be better prepared next holiday season, so this is just perfect.  I've already got a couple pairs to add thanks to The Knitting Expat's Sockathon,ending today.   Not only will there be periodic prizes for projects, but there will be a project for the box they're kept in!  This sounds like a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to participating.

The Everlasting Sock Challenge

This group supports several monthly themed sock challenges. For example, the February challenge I'm working towards is "something that reminds you of your childhood."  I just bought this fabulous Regia Fluormania Color because it reminded me of the vibrant neon colors that were so popular in the 90's.  I can't tell you how surprised I was when they came back into style!  These are monthly challenges that are posted a few weeks before the month starts and you can start on them right away.  It will last all year, so it's a good group to duck into as the year goes on.

Shannon Sanchez Designs - Fight the Fairies MKAL

She's at it again! :D  I had so much fun with Shannon's last Supernatural themed KAL, I just couldn't resist!  There's a new shawl design that's got some pretty serious beading going on based on the materials list.  This KAL will span over five weeks and start on March 4.

Phew!  If you made it all the way down here to the bottom, thanks for sticking around!  Clearly I've got a LOT of stuff going on, so I'm going to go get some work done.  I look forward to posting again soon and sharing my progress (here, read "insanity") and hope to see you soon!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

2015 is over.  Now is a time to reflect, learn from our mistakes, revel in our triumphs, and hopefully use all of that to make 2016 that much better!  I've been thinking about what my resolutions would be this year and really a lot of them are made up of what I didn't get done this year.  So first I'll take stock.

What did I do this year?

  • I started keeping a knitting journal.  I'm always struck by inspiration at the craziest times and I try to make a mental note to myself to remember or document something, but I have the short-term memory of a goldfish. This has not worked well for me thus far, so I've started keeping a tiny note book of grid paper on me at all times so I can document when something strikes me- a color, the line of a building, an idea for a crazy material, etc.  I keep track of the podcasts I'm watching, yarns suggested by other knitters, or patterns to check out when I can next log into Ravelry.  Much better.
  • I decided what kind of knitter I am.  I've come to understand I'm not the fastest knitter and I never will be.  I like to savor the process, like fine wine or delicious steak.  I tried to classify myself as a process vs. product knitter, but that just didn't work.  I'm both.  I enjoy making a project, but every time I wear a garment I remember what I was watching or listening to when I was making it, the trials and triumphs along the way.  It's all rewarding as far as I'm concerned.  I also figured out what I like and don't like- how to tell what I want to knit because it's a challenge but won't be flattering, and what would be flattering but really boring to make.  All of this makes me a better knitter.
What am I going to do this year?
  • Learn all that I can!  This should be a forever goal, right?  The capstone project for the WEBS Expert Knitting Program needs to be completed by June for presentation.  This is the last project/class in the program, working with an adviser to design, plan, and knit an original sweater from measurements.  All other classes must be finished before this project can be started.  I hear the average time to complete the program is three years.  I want to complete the program by June 2017- that means completing all of the classes in 2016.  That's a lot, but I'm pretty dedicated.
  • Design a Project for Release on Ravelry.  This is also a big one.  I think if I can complete the first goal, I'll more than have the skills to do such a thing, I probably could now if I really put my mind to it, but this is more a matter of confidence for me.   Can I create something that I feel is good enough to share with the world?
Are you the kind of person who sets annual goals?  If no, why not and if yes, what kinds of goals do you set?  What kinds of strategies do you use to reach those goals?  One thing I could really stand to collect is strategies!

All patterns by Sockmatician Nathan Taylor, from L to R: Drakar, Castor, and Guilt Socks.
Because I've been posting so sporadically I'm going to write a bit more this time and include some of the activities I've been holding out on.  I did finish the holiday socks I mentioned, though one giftee got his second sock two days later.  At least he had one to unwrap!  All recipients were very gracious and in most cases modeled for me so I could take pictures.  Let's add one more resolution for this year.  I want to knit one gift every month this year- probably socks and maybe the occasional hat, so I don't get stuck with last minute gift knitting in 2016.  Say what?!  Planning ahead?  That's ludicrous!
Ryan's Mystic Spiral Socks

I wrote last time that I was hoping to start the Chainlink sweater, but I've held off a bit longer despite the weather finally turning frigid.  As I mentioned above, I signed up for classes, the first of which will begin at the end of January, not enough time for me to complete a project of that magnitude, and I'll have homework to complete before some of these classes start.  I decided instead to cast-on another project I've been sitting on for a while, the Mystic Spiral Socks in the Ewe Who Knits: Irish Fairy Tree (the Rainbow Dash colorway) I got from The Knitting Expat's rainbow KAL.  I had the sock pattern in my favorites for a while and when I received the yarn, I immediately knew what I was going to use it for.

I'm sure many of you have thought of this, but this is one of my favorite uses for Ravelry: taking a yarn you've never seen before and have no experience with and seeing what others have done with it.  This offers a chance to be inspired and to see how the yarn will behave in different projects before you even cast on.  This is what I did when I first found out I had won a prize and so by the time it came in the mail I already had a plan.  So I finished one sock last night and cast-on the second this evening.  I can't wait to get them on my feet!

A recent FO that's been languishing (Ravelry tells me since Feb 2015, can that be right?!) is my Midsummer Aran sweater.  I only  had the collar to go, which several knitters seem to have had trouble with.  I got really lost in the pattern as the instructions get a little fuzzy at the end, but after I took a long break they just fell together and seemed clear as day.  I don't know how that happened, but after sitting for months I had it finished in an afternoon.  There's a small victory, but wait, disaster soon struck!

Upon blocking the sweater, it seems that two skeins were not like the others (though I'm sure I checked to confirm the dye lots before using them) and for some crazy reason only those two bled like crazy when I blocked the sweater.  As a result, there appear to be two faded stripes at the bottom of the chest. From this picture, you'd think it was just a trick of the light or a problem with the picture, but that's what it really looks like.  It hasn't quite finished drying yet, so we'll see how obvious it is when it's dry and in the full light of day.  Let me say, I've worked with several Valley Yarns, though never Goshen before now, and I've never had a problem with colorfastness or fading- never.  Needless to say, I was a little crushed when I realized what had happened and I'm really considering just wearing the darn thing as-is anyway.  I suppose I could dye over it, but whatever, I'm still proud of it!  I also would not hesitate to work in Goshen again.  It's super soft and smooth and I really do love the intensity of the color (the parts that didn't fade).

Last and not least, one of my oldest friends asked me to make a hat for her youngest. This is her first winter and Baby needed a hat.  She asked for something with ears.  It didn't have to be a fox, but she seemed to be taken with the idea and I found Fox Hat.  I'm kind of toying with the idea of making one for myself, and I'd love to modify the pattern to make a racoon for her son.  I had this finished easily in an afternoon.  Realistically, it only took a couple of hours in one sitting.

I'd love to see what others are working on and hope to touch in more frequently in the future.  Until next time, stay warm and may the wool hold out!