How to frog

The other day I frogged a completed project I finished three years ago!  I wore it recently, and even though I may be slightly less slender than when I knitted it, it still felt gargantuan.  [This is probably a lesson in swatching.]

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The yarn purchase is from a work trip to Frankfurt, Germany, and I just wanted something easy to play with [thus the lack of swatching].  I knitted a pattern-free, short-sleeved top, and I love the overall silhouette and finished product!  Sometimes it is such a relief to work with fat yarn and get that instant gratification as it knits up quickly.

My recently developed frogging method, which I have used twice in the past year or so, to pull out projects or partial projects that have languished as WIPs for years, is to label the balls of yarn I’m forming from the frogged fiber.  In principle this will help me as I approach the re-knit…

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For this short-sleeved scoop-neck top, my plan is to size down a needle since the fabric came out super stretchy, and it made me want to wear a camisole underneath.  Since it’s 100% cotton and intended as a summer piece, layering is not generally recommended.  Plus it is a cabled yarn construction, so while stretchy and relatively frothy for what it is, it can definitely trap heat.  [Undershirts are for winter!]

These are my labeled frogged cakes that will marinate together in their own ziploc until I am ready to cast on again.

My plan is to (yes) swatch soon and get a sense of how to adjust the original count to reduce about 8″ of ease.

How do you feel about frogging and swatching? How do you actually approach them?

I’m a winner!

While I am 100% owning my two blue ribbons and my three red ribbons from this past weekend, I will say that I expect our local knitting guild to up the ante for next year.  The woman that accepted my entries told me they used to have a hundred afghan entries.  Maybe we can make that happen again.  The premiums for this fair are very modest, but there was no entry fee, and next year I’ll enter more than five items.  I think I earned enough to fund my one day at the fair!

Ravelry links to the above projects:

  1. Hot Pink Cardigan
  2. Fly Away
  3. Xenon
  4. Bouncy
  5. NYC

State Fair entries

It is that season, the season of home-made competition.  I haven’t been organized enough in probably ten years to enter anything in any competition, or else I’ve been living overseas or gallivanting around the globe.  Once upon a time I entered a pair of socks into the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair and got a second-place ribbon.  But at least one of my fellow Stitch ‘n Bitchers that I recently left behind when I moved has far overtaken me and has won a number of blue ribbons in the last several years at SAFF and the State Fair.

This time I have plans for one state fair and two Sheep and Wool festivals.  The parameters are all different, so the entries won’t be the same.  Here are shots of four of my five entries that I dropped of yesterday for this weekend’s fair.

I’m really proud of my work, ribbon or otherwise!  [See project links below.]

For one of the fests taking place in two weeks, I have two items planned, and neither has made it to the 50% finished benchmark yet… Also, why did I decide to do a handspun item, when I don’t have all the yarn?  It requires four colors, and fortunately I located three in my stash, but the fourth is still a wild card.

And for my last fest of the season, I may have up to five pieces to enter, but again, two of them aren’t finished (and one FO isn’t blocked), for a total of three projects still on the needles across my planned entries.

It is exciting, though, to be motivated to race to the finish line.  After jumping into the deep end this year, I should be familiar with the guidelines and better able to anticipate for next year.   The most permissive competition is the state fair, and I would have entered more than five pieces if I hadn’t missed the pre-registration deadline.  Apparently five is the cut-off when you just show up the day of drop-off.

Have you ever entered any of your handiwork in a competition?

Project links from the photo above:

  1. Hot Pink striped stockinette cardigan
  2. Bouncy lap blanket
  3. Fly Away baby blanket
  4. Xenon lace shawl

LYS: Fiber & Vine in Norway, ME

Last weekend, when I was in Maine for the weekend, my sister volunteered that we should visit the local yarn shop called Fiber & Vine.  I was delighted, since she has her crafty side, but it does not tilt toward knitting.  The shop is situated in the Norway Opera House building, which is a lovely historical structure in the middle of the cute downtown, and which also houses an artisan co-op, among other merchants.

This is not only an LYS, but also an LWS: there are shelves of handpicked wines on offer in their own conspicuous section between spinning fiber and notions.  Unfortunately we were not there on a Friday between 5-7pm, which is when they offer free wine tastings!  Maybe next time.  I was happy to see several varieties of petite syrah from California, which is one of my favorites in addition to Lodi old-vine red Zinfandel.  I also selected one bottle from at least three Viognier options on the shelf, one of my favorite varietals among the whites.  They also had a rosé section and a bubbly section, and a few very unusual options tucked in there, especially on their South Africa shelf.  Plus, a whole shelf of vermouth!

Then, yarn.

The breadth of their offerings was delightful, and they had a broad color selection of several popular lines, such as Juniper Moon Herriot (which I carried around with me for awhile just to feel it, and also made my sister touch), Cascade 220, Manos del Uruguay, The Fibre Company, and Noro.  A few local options were nestled in as well.

Beyond yarn, they have a great button selection and a trove of tiny rainbow roving or needle felting fiber balls.

F&V is also featuring some fun handmade crazy-spun textured yarn necklaces, as well as hand woven and hand knitted gifts.  The gift section included other interesting items such as hand-felted, hand-sewn pouches (conveniently sized for a pair of glasses), felt-covered soaps, and cute embroidery-embellished baby blankets.

When I was there, a knitting lesson was happening, and I was visiting with a non-knitter, but otherwise I certainly would have been tempted to sit down at the table in the back and pull out a project.  For the ambitiously creative, F&V also offers folk art workshops through their Folk Art Studio.

Since my stash is approaching StABLE,* but I still think it is important to support our LYSes, when I visit a new place, I focus on choosing something locally produced or enhanced (read: dyed).  This time, I left with a gorgeous speckly skein in a pastel green-blue-purple colorway from Wool is Why, as well as Fiber & Vine branded “Splendid” yarn, a delicious blend of merino, silk, and yak which was also dyed by Wool is Why.  If there had been more available, I surely would have purchased more of both.

*I like the notion of stable, so I have added the “t” into this acronym for my own use.  Does it mask the import of exceeding life expectancy, though?

Knitterly things in Maine plus LYS: Mother of Purl, Freeport

I spent Labor Day weekend in Maine with a couple of friends and used the opportunity to peruse at least one artist co-op store and at least one yarn shop (in Maine, that is! I visited another one in NH).  In New Harbor, I came across this cool buoy motif knitted hat:

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And in Round Pond, a sheep-themed portable shopping bag:

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And these fun (not knitting but I love them) rug-hooked pillows in sailboats, lobster, and cat:

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Not to mention an entire wall of Peace Fleece worsted/aran-weight skeins at Mother of Purl yarn shop in Freeport.  My experience there was great – the staff is knowledgeable and creative, and when it was clear I really just wanted to playfully toss around some skeins on the table for a while, they sat back and let me play.

The colorways that struck me initially are the blues and greens I’m generally attracted to, plus a beautiful golden yellow.  But eventually the slightly more odd colorways began to draw my attention, and I conducted a color experiment by pulling out one skein each of the colorways I thought I would be least likely to work with.  This photo does not do the colors justice, but after playing with the sequence for a while, I came up with this, which reminds me of the shell-strewn seashore and the ocean (plus maybe some pine trees for good measure).  And one of the store staff said, “That looks like Maine.”  EXACTLY!

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Then the question: “So what do you plan to do with it?”

I plan to design an outerwear cardigan.  There is 1800 or 2000 yards here, plenty to experiment with, as long as I don’t try for too much cabling or colorwork that would eat up the yardage.  This project will take some time to materialize, as I ruminate and research potential techniques and stitch patterns that will give me the look I’m going for.  I have a general visual, but haven’t honed in on the specific yet.

And on a non-knitterly note, I thank this lobster and everyone responsible for making this lunch happen:

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It’s not the heat, it’s the fervidity

The heat of summer is finally breaking (I hope) – we just had another over-90F day and now it is windy and raining, which, true to my British Isles roots, is very soothing and appealing.  Lately I haven’t been able to sleep at night because it is so steamy, and, well, I only have a ceiling fan, no AC.

Despite this hot humid weather, my pile of woolen WIPs continues to grow.  I have rarely let sticky weather stop me.

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Skeleton Cardi v2.0 and large Noro scarf in the works.

My Find Your Fade is gradually growing – I have reached color #3 of 7, and section 5 of 13.

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Lots of yellow and light speckling so far.

While most of us in the KAL, including one person’s son, decided that our first few rows strongly resembled a thong, I have powered past the “looks like underwear some love but I would never wear or if I did wouldn’t let the public see it never liked that trend #TrueConfessions” stage.

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Kim’s lovely magenta un-thong.

I’m not sure in the end that I’m satisfied with my color choices, but given that I only wanted to stash-shop, this was the best selection.  It demonstrates the difficulty of the transition from loving a yarn in the skein and creating something that is still lovable once it’s knit up.  The other frustration perhaps is that the pattern calls for SEVEN different yarns, but only around 1500 yards total.  This means that I will still have around half of each of these yarns still in my stash!  Does that then even qualify as stash-busting?

At any rate, I am chugging along and enjoying this as TV knitting.  And one day, I will enjoy it as a shawl!

If you’re curious about any of the yarns I’m using, they are all recorded on Ravelry under my Find Your Fade project.

Ball Winding Party for KAL kick-off!

Over the weekend, our local guild started our Find Your Fade knitalong, and we decided to kick it off with a ball-winding party.  I volunteered to host, which is always a good excuse to straighten up the house, and we popped open some bottles of wine and made an evening of it.  We had three swift / winder sets going at my dining room table and I figure around 20 cakes of yarn wound during the evening.  I’m told it was a success!

I neglected to take any photos at all, so I borrowed these from Kim:

And then I was feeling inadequate with only four colors selected, so I added two more, and put this sequence together:

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Some of these speckles have been sidelined for a while and need to see some action.  Also, I don’t know what else to do with them – they are so fun, and looked great in the skein, and I always have that problem of caking them and asking myself, now what?

If you’re curious about any of the yarns in the last photo, they are all recorded on Ravelry under my Find Your Fade project.

How do you decide what to do with a pretty, pretty skein of speckled or striping yarn?

Dangers of an overflowing work basket, plus doing math

I can’t even remember what I was looking for the other day when I came across this:

Which is supposed to be part of what I’m calling my Mighty Mitered Squaregan.  According to Ravelry, I began this project roughly two years ago.  A few months ago I really focused on finishing it, and while it isn’t sewn together yet, I completed the remaining 50% or more planned squares.  I even took a photo of how I planned to sew the squares together:

But as I was approaching the end of the yarn I had on hand, I thought the blanket would be too small.  The starting batch was three 10-packs of different colorways of Classic Elite Liberty Print worsted, which I purchased at a discount at WEBS, the one time I actually visited the physical shop!  And I got a little excited about one of the colorways and borrowed 3-4 skeins to make a Baby Surprise Jacket.  Since this sweater doesn’t have buttons yet, I reserved the right to frog it in case I needed it for the blanket, but the sweater is so cute that I haven’t brought myself to unravel it.

Including the edging, which I haven’t figured out yet, but imagine will be a few ridges of garter stitch in one of the yarns, I decided I was around 10 balls short of the size blanket I wanted, so I selected a coordinating fourth colorway and ordered another 10 balls, reaching my 80-square goal and setting aside six balls for edging.

But now I find that I have 9-10 squares’ worth of yarn sitting in the bottom of an abandoned work basket!  This finding is exciting and frustrating all at once.  Not only do I have more garter stitch ahead of me, which is fine, but it means my sequence photo is obsolete and I’ll be back to playing with the order of the squares once I see how this colorway affects the overall blanket layout.

I’m also not at all certain that 6 balls is enough for the edging.  It sounds like a lot, but will it be enough to go around 24 feet of edge, and how many times?

In fact, let’s do some math!  Remember that formula for summing a series of integers?  Me neither.  The magic of the interwebs tells me:

By using Carl Gauss’s clever formula, (n / 2)(first number + last number) = sum, where n is the number of integers, we learned how to add consecutive numbers quickly. We now know that the sum of the pairs in consecutive numbers starting with the first and last numbers is equal. [Note: where “n” is the number of integers.]

But I actually don’t want to add all the numbers.  I want to add only odd numbers, since I started with an odd number and I decrease every two rows.  Wikihow tells me the formula is: (1/2(n + 1))2So each of my squares would have approximately (1/2(1+61)2 = 1,346 stitches.  Except that this would only account for front-side rows, so I need to double this to reach the number of stitches per square: 1,346 x 2 = 2,692 stitches per square, or per approximately half a ball of yarn.

If each square edge is then around 30 stitches long, and my blanket is 9X10 squares, or (9+9+10+10) = 38 squares around, then my blanket is 38sq*30st = 1,140 stitches around.

If I have six balls of yarn left, I have (2,692st x 6 balls) = 16,152 stitches worth of yarn available for the edging.  (I do have some extra…)  If I divide this number of stitches by the number of stitches per round, I should be able to get an approximation of the number of edge rows’ worth of yarn that I have, which is 16,152st/1,140st = 14.16 rows, or 7 ridges.

This doesn’t account for binding off, but I feel comfortable that with the extra yarn I have, even with adding stitches at each corner for a mitered edge, I can achieve a 6-ridge edge and then bind off with ease.

Whew!  I actually like puzzling through these things, sometimes, when I can get my brain to focus.

Have you had to do math to design or modify any of your recent projects?

LYS: Green Mountain Yarn and Fibers

The Green Mountain Knitting Guild is hosting monthly yarn trips to shops within the state of Vermont, so I hopped on the bandwagon and joined them last weekend.  We went to check out Green Mountain Yarn and Fibers in Rutland.

The shop has a nice cozy feel with a large table in the back, and while they do have a scheduled knitting window each week (all afternoon on Sundays), they welcome knitters any time, which just makes it feel that much more cozy.

The entryway features fun project bags and larger functional bags, some of which are stitched from beautiful embroidered cloth and ribbon.  But the main feature as you walk in the door is a wall of shelves dedicated to local fibers.  There is a plethora of colors and textures to stimulate the senses, including a variety of weights and fibers.  The yarn in highest supply was a handspun bulky from Mount Nickwackett Sheep Farm that goes for $15 a skein – a steal for handspun as far as I’m concerned.  [In fact, Marilyn Brandner of the farm is apparently teaching a Navajo weaving class at the shop on September 15, for 3 participants only!]

Another wall of the shop features Noro brand yarns, in a quantity and selection that I have not seen anywhere else recently.  Since I have been a fan of Noro since 1997 when I was an exchange student in Japan, I was tickled, and brought home some Silk Garden in a solid and a coordinating stripe to make a large cushy scarf.

The shop also had a nice collection of hat kits, featuring several of Nancy Bates’ National Park Beanies.  I’d never seen these before, but I am certainly a fan now!

The shop was also able to fulfill my Addi Turbo Flexi Tips needs.  A fun time was had by all!

Visit to Snowshoe Farm Alpacas

I had the privilege to travel to Snowshoe Farm Alpacas a couple of weekends ago during the Vermont Farm Week events to visit with some adorable furry beasts and knit with yarn made from their fiber.

The farm is located in Peacham, Vermont, in this beautiful setting….

The farm hosts over 50 alpacas. Not only do they produce and sell yarn from the fiber, they also offer shearing services, sell animals, and offer breeding and boarding services.  I learned that Ron Miller shears around 1,000 animals annually.  A couple of them were very curious when we showed up in the barn.

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The “yarn tasting” we attended was located in the main house in a small room that serves as the storefront, outfitted with a couch and chairs.  Terry’s yarn is milled from their animals and returned to her for dyeing in solids and variegated colorways.  We got to sample 100% alpaca yarn as well as blends.  She sells most of her wares at two main festivals per year: the Vermont Sheep and Wool fest and the New York Sheep and Wool fest.

The alpacas at this farm are known as huacaya alpacas, which make up around 90% of all alpacas.  The other main type is suri, a term I know from purchasing yarn and fiber.  The history of alpacas is thousands of years old in South America.  I think this quote from the farm’s website is so interesting:

Together, the alpaca and the llama provided not only the food, fuel, clothing and transportation for the Andean people, but were – and still are – central to their religion, traditions and daily lives.

I appreciate this vision of such an economical way of life.  Although I have yet to fuel a fire with patties from any animal…

Have you knit with alpaca yarn? What do you think alpaca fiber is best suited for?