Friday, February 29, 2008

Let’s Talk about Mitts!

My sister and I have a joke about “little” life lessons. You know, the ones learned the hard way, but that eventually you ARE able to laugh about. Well anyway, I think on a smaller scale, we often get little knitting lessons, and I’ll tell you about a couple of them.

You know I knit some fingerless mitts for the Mitten Swap. That sounds easy doesn’t it! They turned out pretty well, but the innocent looking finished mitts have a hidden past.

My pal suggested some things she likes - fingerless for indoor wear, cables, and colorwork. Being ambitious (OK foolhardy) but not finding a pattern that incorporated them ALL, I put together a pattern of my own. I’d seen fair isle mitts with no cables, and cabled mitts in worsted weight that seemed too bulky for indoors, and I’d looked at lots of sock leg patterns for inspiration. I even started some twisted stitch wristies based loosely on a sock, but that wasn’t quite it.

Mitten Swap Wristies - with nose
Ivy, supervising the wristie

I pulled out all my Walker Treasuries and Harmony Guides looking for a cable that looked just right. And I found one. But first,

The request for colorwork led me to start the mitts with a corrugated rib cuff, for extra warmth at the pulse points. Corrugated ribbing is a knit and purl ribbing (like a typical ribbing) worked in two colors, that is often used in fair-isle designs. Generally the knits are worked in one color, and the purls in the other.

Swap Mitts - corrugated ribbing
Knit with orange, Purl with brown

One key difference is that corrugated ribbing, because of the stranding of the unused color across the back of the work, is not nearly as elastic as either plain knitting or one-color ribbing. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and even ended up re-knitting that last cuff one more time, adding more stitches.

Mitten Swap Mitts-4

Lesson One: Knit corrugated ribbing on larger needles! With more stitches!

OK, so I was tooling along on the swap mitts. I got the first mitt mostly done on the planes down to FL, finished the thumb by the pool. Then I looked at it.

Mitten Swap Mitts - miscrossed cables
Blink. Blink. Blink.

Now can you see the mis-crossed cables?

swapmitts-07 miscrossed arrows

Lesson Two: Pay Attention!

All’s well that ends well though. I mean, at least I noticed. So, after finishing Mitt #2, I pulled #1 back to the first offending cable, and knit it back up.

And the first person to correctly identify the other mistake that was NOT fixed, and that we shall not otherwise speak of, will receive a skein of sock yarn in the color of their choice!

Lesson Three: Take better notes!

Mitten Swap Mitts - Cables
Done, and blocked

Mitten Swap Mitts - Cuffs
Cuffs that fit

Mitten Swap Mitts - Hands
Cabled back and smooth palm

The Mitts are done, wrapped, packed with goodies and have been sent to my Pal!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WIP Wednesday: Home Again - February 27, 2008

Well, I'm home and still trying to get caught up. Also, missing the Florida sunshine! But, I've got some little bits of knitting progress to share with you. Little bits of knitting seem to be what's working best for me right now, so might as well make the most of it.


Swap Mittens:
My Pal's mitts for the No More Humdrum Mittens Swap 2 are finished and blocked! I've been assembling goodies for the swap package, and will share more details later.

Mitten Swap Mitts - Blocked
Almost ready to send to my Pal

Leaf Lace Swatch/Sample Teeny Shawlette:
We had the first of two classes last night, and had lots of fun. I can tell you as a newbie instructor, that when a student exclaims unprovoked "Oh, I'm learning lots of new things!," it's nice. Really nice. Kind of goes without saying, but I always try to thank my teachers for something specific I've learned, even in a class where the topic is one familiar to me.

Leaf Lace Sample - Detail
Evelyn Clark's Leaf Lace Shawl, just a few repeats

WIP’s in Active Rotation:

Wyvern Socks:
A free pattern by Marnie Maclean, knit in STR Mustang Sally, a beautiful variegated red.
Status: Sock #1 has a foot, a heel and is one repeat into the leg.

Wyvern Socks - dragon scales
Dragon Scales

Remembering that I'm knitting these toe-up (per the pattern) but with mods to the short row toe and heel, I wanted to experiment with toe-up flap heels and swatched a bit with two versions - one from Knitty's Baudelaire Sock pattern, and the other a generic version of the free You're Putting Me On Sock by Judy Gibson.

Baudelaire uses a slightly deeper gusset, round heel, w&t short rows, and a heel flap that knitted up just a bit shorter than I usually use. Judy's sock uses a shallower gusset, and rather than using short rows, decreases the heel stitches in a wedge shape, then picks up stitches along the decreased edge before also knitting a flap while incorporating the gusset stitches.

Clearly, I need to knit some more swatches, include some short row heels, and post some photos to show you the differences. Why the fascination with toe-up flap heels? Well, first, I have a long foot (size 11, that's about 10-3/4"), my sisters wear 10 and 12, my Mother a 10, my husband a mens' 11. So, I worry about running out of yarn no matter whose socks I'm knitting. Do you know how annoying it is to knit the leg a little shorter than you really want to be sure to have enough, then wind up with, say, 20g of yarn leftover? Yep, that's the extra inch I wanted. I've been knitting flap heels since they seem to fit a little better, and wanted to combine the two. So, I'm on a mission to find MY favorite heel.

Goal: Finish Sock #1.

Returning to Active Rotation this week are two old friends that, now that a little dust has settled, I want to get back to work on. I'm determined to get my remaining UFO's done, hopefully before my resolve weakens and I start some other bright shiny new project.

Bird in Hand:
Kate Gilbert’s pretty stranded mitten pattern, knit in Berroco Ultra Alpaca, charcoal and blue.
Status: First mitten was started and halfway up the thumb gusset a while back. Here's the old photo to refresh your memory.

Bird in Hand - Back started
Back of hand and thumb gusset

Goal: Finish Mitten #1.

Sea Fever Cardigan:
Simple gansey pattern cardigan, knit with Berroco Ultra Alpaca in heathery lilac.
Status: When last we saw SFC, the ribbing was done, and while partway through the first repeat of the body, I decided to add some steek stitches at the cardigan front, and knit this rascal in the round. There's just a little of the gansey pattern that occurs on the WS rows. The combination of all that purling (which makes my hand ache after a while) and WS pattern was making this sweater slower and more tedious than it really needed to be. The front edge gets turned under and a button band picked up anyway, so let's hope I don't knit to regret this!

Sea Fever Cardi, progress 071008
I love this sweater and it's been very patient waiting for me

Goal: Sort out where I was in the pattern, and (modest goal) knit an inch.

A New Category for WIP Wednesday,
WIP's Not Very Active, But Not Quite On Hold, and Just Sort Of There:

One-Row Scarf in Ring of Fire Handspun Merino:
From the Yarn Harlot, in my handspun. Still occasionally picking this up and knitting a few rows.
Status: 9 inches
One Row Scarf
I miss the Hibiscus

Goal: Knit, no hurry.

Startitis Alert:
Still hoping to get to the wheel in the next few days. Turns out I'm not going down to Mathews since I won't get to see much of the Hubs anyway. So, I'm a fiber bachelorette until Sunday night!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thirty Nine Degrees and Raining

Mitten Swap Pal Irene (reanbean on Ravelry) asked:
“in VA, how often do you wear mittens? LOL”

Snow Day 20080117
Not today, and maybe not typical, but we do actually have a Winter here

Since I’m known for my popsicle digits, my answer is “Often!” Today, in fact, since this post's title is an accurate reflection of the day's weather! My return from “Winter” weather in Sarasota to Central Virginia’s chilly damp hasn’t been too bad, but it was nice to have wonderful warm mittens this morning.

Go look at all the amazing stranded mittens on Irene’s Projects page. Did I luck out with a swap pal, or what? These are my fabulous new mittens, the Petseri Mittens by Aino Praakli, a reconstruction of an Estonian pattern.

Mitten Swap Mittens from Irene
Looks like Winter around here

Knit with a main color of lovely fingering weight Fleece Artist Merino in a slightly variegated Ivory/Oatmeal and a contrast color of Shelridge Farm Soft Touch Handpainted Ultra in shades of turquoise olive, and spruce. Are they Soft? Check. Warm? Check. Match my new parka? Check.

Mitten Swap Mittens - Detail
The pattern makes me think of dancers with their arms outstretched

But, Wait, there’s more! Knitting Yarns and Spinning Tales, a collection of knitting essays, and a cute little card case.

Mitten Swap - Knitting Book
I love books like this for a little bit of bedtime reading

Soothing warm beverages! And how did Irene know about my chronically chapped hands?

Mitten Swap Extras - Cocoa Tea and Balm

Still not done yet! The latest Piecework magazine has an article on and pattern for Poetry Mittens - the stranded knitting pattern around the mitts contains a verse. Plus there’s enough Louet Gems fingering weight (the old Pearl) to knit the mittens in the original colors!

Mitten Swap - Yarn and Pattern

Irene, I can't thank you enough for the beautiful mittens, and for putting together such a fun and thoughtful package!

Stay Warm and Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

WIP Wednesday: Tropical Flora Edition - February 20, 2008

Well, I've found some wireless internets and thought I'd bring you a quick knitting update today. Dad has his follow-up with the surgeon today, should be cleared to drive, and I'm scheduled to fly home into ice, snow, and sleet on Friday. Yeah, I know, wah.

What I've got for you are some almost FO's. I want to do a better write-up on the swap mitts when I get home and after I've mailed out the package. I plan to re-knit the mitts for myself with some revisions, and hopefully put that up as a free pattern in a little bit.

WIP’s in Active Rotation:

Swap Mittens: No More Humdrum Mittens Swap 2
Status: Knitting is Done! Just need to block them, and assemble a package to send out when I get home.
Mitten Swap Mitts - Done but unblocked
Details: Fingerless mitts, Louet Gems Pearl, corrugated rib cuff, cabled back of the hand, thumb gusset.
Goal: Block to smooth out the cable section a bit.

Learn to Knit Lace:
Lace Classes will be on Tuesday February 26 and March 11 at The Needle Lady.
Status: I've finished knitting an abbreviated mini-shawl in fingering weight as a swatch of the techniques and lace pattern.
Leaf Lace Shawl Sample
Goal: Need to block when I get home, and finish writing up class notes.

Wyvern Socks:
A free pattern by Marnie Maclean, I've knit my own toe using Magic Cast-on and increases rather than short rows, and am only a couple of repeats into it. It's pretty in the slightly variegated STR Mustang Sally (which I have to say has help up to repeated frogging very well). I'm also going to use a flap heel rather than short rows again.
Status: Sock #1 Toe plus two repeats.
Wyvern Sock - Toe still
Goal: Travel knitting for the trip home, hope to get past the heel.

One-Row Scarf in Ring of Fire Handspun Merino:
This is from a Yarn Harlot blog post, and works very well with some nubby, irregular, highly variegated handspun. I've just been knitting on this in little bits here and there, and it may go on the plane with me too.
Status: 8.5 inches
One Row Scarf
Goal: Knit some more.

Startitis Alert:
When I get home, I really want to get back to the spinning wheel. And finish the Bird in Hand mittens. And pull the gansey cardi back into active rotation. See how good I'm being!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


One of the things I love about Sarasota is how early the azaleas bloom.

I know! When I think of Florida, I think of hibiscus and bougainvillea too. But the large condo community in which Dad lives was built the late 70’s. So, whether planted or preserved in the first place, there are a lot of middle-aged and mature live oaks which provide a significant canopy for understory plants.

In other words, it’s shady. Shady enough for beautiful ferns, and philodendrons the size of small cars, and alongside the hibiscus – azaleas.

This post is for Margene.

Azaleas 20080218

Azaleas and Ferns 20080218

Azaleas and a Helper 20080218
And the photo shoot director

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday Sky - February 16, 2008

Dad's doing much better, so I've made a quick escape to the free wi-fi at Panera, which allows me to bring you some winter skies from Sarasota. Don't hate me! (and click if you want to see 'em bigger)

Saturday Sky 20080216 - 1

Saturday Sky 20080216 - 2

Saturday Sky 20080216 - 3

Saturday Sky 20080216 - 4

Saturday Sky 20080216 - 5

Saturday Sky 20080216 - 6

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Good Outcome!

In case it takes me another few days to catch up on emails, please let me thank you all here for good wishes, thoughts, and prayers for my Dad! Though there was risk of stroke or worse, he came through surgery very well yesterday, and the surgeon said the blockage was such that it's a very good thing he went through with this. After a night in the ICU, he's home this afternoon, and is not so good at the resting.

You know how you sometimes have to make a two-year old just lie down and be quiet at naptime even though they don't think they're tired, and a few minutes later they are sound asleep? Yeah, it's like that.

I've gotten some knitting done. Including two egregiously mis-crossed cables on Swap Mitt #1, way back about halfway down, on the plane, I guess I wasn't paying enough attention. I've gone on to get most of #2 done (correctly) while in the waiting room yesterday and after a little time out will rip #1 to the offending area and knit it back up again.

And, lastly, some people talk on their cellphones in the waiting room, loudly enough for, um, all the rest of us to hear, about really entertaining, but wildly inappropriate topics. Like her cheating husband, and how he's acting like he's all mad at her, and she "accidentally" erased 5,000 of his emails including the ones from "that woman", and now he is in surgery for a badly messed up knee. I think maybe it's karma, or something.

Monday, February 11, 2008

At least it's warmer than Siberia

I'm off to Sarasota tomorrow to assist my Dad through a second carotid artery surgery. I've got lots of little knitting projects packed, a three hour layover in Charlotte that should mean some progress on my swap mitts, and I know where all the yarn shops are.

But, and you knew there was a but coming, Dad has dial-up. So, my internet access will be limited for the next ten days unless he feels up to my escaping to the free wi-fi at Panera Bread.

So, since I don't expect to update for WIP Wednesday, I'll leave you with a few snips of progress.

My swap pal's mitts, in B&W to protect the innocent. You can see the first mitt on the right that was abandoned for a too tight cuff. The new cuffs are much more comfortable.

Swap Mitts - The Three Cuffs
Just right! At last

And a sock that I've be
en knitting for, I don't know, three days and this is where I am. I've started three different stitch patterns, in two needle sizes and finally know what I want to do. But, I'd frogged a row too far, and the stitch count was off, and well, you get the idea.

Wyvern Socks - toe
The STR lightweight in Mustang Sally is really pretty though!

The very beginning of a mini-size Leaf Lace Shawl as a sample swatch for Lace Class.

Leaf Lace Sample begun
Periwinkle is my favorite color

And, for Project Spectrum, Madeline Tosh merino handspun in Ring of Fire. I'm giving the Harlot's One Row Scarf a try. Easy peasy.

One Row Scarf
And bright!

I'll try to check in when I can.
Happy Knitting and Spinning!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Knit Squared plus Purl Squared equals Hypoteneuse

Time spent waiting plus a straightforward geometric lace pattern equals a completed Hypoteneuse Wrap. Talented Anne Hansen at Knitspot created this pattern as “man lace”, and it is a clean and un-frilly design that a man would wear as a scarf. Yet it is also simple and elegant enough that it makes a lovely and warm stole.

Hypoteneuse Wrap - Done

I’ve knit the larger size with Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in the Black which has a subtle blue-black cast to it. Though the yarn is slightly tweedy with tiny silky slubs, it knits up smoothly with good stitch definition. After a soak, the Silky Wool softened and blocked out very well. The yarn and knitted fabric have a light, dry, cottony feel, yet the wrap is quite warm. The fabric is sturdy enough that it will make a perfect everyday or travel wrap.

Hypoteneuse - Detail

The pattern is intuitive and easily memorized, which made it perfect for travel and social knitting. The wrap can be made any size by adding or subtracting repeats in width and length. I think it would look great knitted in pretty much anything from laceweight to bulky handspun.


This was an immensely enjoyable project. I loved the pattern, yarn, and process, and the finished product is just what I wanted it to be!

Hypoteneuse - Aligned

Pattern: Hypoteneuse Scarf or Shawl, from Knitspot, purchase it on the website
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool (65% wool/35% silk) in Black
Needles: US6/4mm KnitPicks Options circulars
Gauge: 4 stitches/inch blocked in stockinette
Started: 8/29/2007
Completed: 2/2/2008
Finished Size: 21” x 78”, though I could have blocked it longer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WIP Wednesday – February 6, 2008

I’ve tried to concentrate on knitting and fiber here, keep it light hearted, and amuse you with my trials and triumphs. But last week was spent at the bedside of my terminally ill father-in-law. Next week I’ll fly to Florida to help out my own father through his second surgery for carotid artery blockage.

So, it may seem like WIP Wednesday would be a low priority, but I’m home for a week, and wanted to share a few good things from the past two weeks, since Knitting was a good thing for me. Knitting helped pass the time, helped busy the fingers, and quiet the mind just a little. Reading a few knitting blogs in the evenings helped remind me of and re-ground me in the normal world that was going on everywhere else. I am very grateful for kind thoughts and prayers sent our way in comments and emails.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

MadTini Socks! Done and mailed to my sister.
Hypoteneuse Stole! This wonderful wrap will get its own post in a day or so after it’s blocked.
Sock Class Sample Sock! Done and going to the LYS today.

WIP’s in Active Rotation:

Swap Mittens: No More Humdrum Mittens Swap 2
Status: Believe it or not, I’ve knit the corrugated rib cuff AGAIN! Even with the votes of confidence at SnB last week, I just knew the cuff was too tight, too unstretchy. So, I’ve knit it again, still on US2.5’s (Addi Turbos) but so loosely that now at least the cuff will fit over the wearer’s hand.

Details: Fingerless mitts, Louet Gems Pearl, corrugated rib cuff, cabled back of the hand, thumb gusset. The cable is intricate enough that it requires keeping the chart handy, and needs more than casual attention. Good for my long layover in Charlotte?

Goal: Continue Mitt One. Start ribbing on Mitt Two.

Learn to Knit Socks: Sock Classes will be on Sunday February 24 and March 9 at The Needle Lady.
Status: Sample sock is done!

Sock Class Sock - Heel
ArtYarns Supermerino, worsted weight

Goal: Finish writing up the instructions/pattern for class.

Learn to Knit Lace: Lace Classes will be on Tuesday February 26 and March 11 at TNL.
Status: The plan is to knit mini Leaf Lace Shawls in three weights as samples of the leaf lace pattern. I’ve cast on for a DK weight sample, and will also knit one in fingering weight and lace weight yarns.

Goal: Continue mini-shawls, maybe as travel knitting, and write up class notes.

WIP’s On Hold:

Bird in Hand: Kate Gilbert’s pretty stranded mittens pattern, knit in Berroco Ultra Alpaca.
Status: On Hold until I get class prep knitting and my swap mittens done.

Sea Fever Cardi: Simple gansey cardigan, knit with Berroco Ultra Alpaca in the heathery lilac color
Status: On Hold until things quiet down.

Felted Tote:
Status: Knit a few rows last night as it was the only mindless knitting around. I’ll still knit a bit when I can, but, find that knitting with this heavy worsted aggravates my arm.

Startitis Alert:
Too much going on to seriously consider big lace right now, so I’ve dodged that bullet. I’m looking for low-challenge travel and waiting around knitting for next week.

STR Mustang Sally

Right now, I have my eye on some stashed Lightweight STR in Mustang Sally that is perfect for Project Spectrum’s current elemental theme of Fire. Then there’s also the fiery handspun merino that wants to be a simple scarf. Too hot for Florida knitting though. That one will have to wait ‘til I get home.