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

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?

How to use speckles

I fall in love with skeins.  This is fine, because I basically decorate with yarn, and I consider my entire home my “studio.”  But sometimes the challenge is figuring out the next step in the yarn’s lifecycle.  And you know that what is irresistible in skein format doesn’t always make for a delightful finished product.

Solutions abound, and fortunately yarn dyers and clever designers often design to explicitly to incorporate these contemporary dyeing techniques.  Such is the case with the speckles trend, which is still going pretty strongly as far as I can tell.

Prim Hey Lady Hey
A skein of Hey Lady Hey’s Classic Sock in colorway “Prim”

Hot pink is what I fell in love with, and I didn’t want it to be lost on my feet, inside boots all winter, subject to the vagaries of hard feet and hard footwear.  The natural go-to in this situation is “neckwear,” like a cowl or scarf, or maybe something larger, like a stole or shawl.  But how many shawls does a woman need?  (I know, none of this is about “need,” is it?)  And is that much hot pink really flattering right next to my face?

What I lacked was a collection of layerable garments, such as lightweight cardigans, so I designed this striped stockinette piece to fill that lacuna.  The dark “Presley” colorway from Hey Lady Hey cuts the beautiful brilliant pink, and I think makes it look appealing.  There are so many other interesting colors in the speckles that the visual interest remains, and “Presley,” while not speckled, is also not a solid, giving the sweater more depth than your run-of-the-mill French striped jobby.

Hot Pink sweater

Ravelry project link: Hot Pink

Except for managing the striping row-count, this project is really a lazy person’s dream.  You may even see a pattern for it soon.  Basically it is a top-down cardigan with a stylized crew collar in garter stitch, with matching cuffs and button band.  There is a little bit more to it than that, but not much.  If you’re bored with stockinette and can’t get into a zone while binge-watching, this is probably not a good project for you.  But if you’re anything like me and enjoy the meditative aspect of concentrating on your hands (not in an overly challenging way), rather than your chatty brain, then maybe you’d like to try it.

If you’ve made it this far and are interested in test-knitting for me, leave me a comment and I’ll contact you soon!

How do you like to use your speckled yarn? 

LYS: Ovelha Negra, Porto, Portugal

I visited this shop in late June and am only now starting to sift and catalog all my photos from my Portugal trip!  Even though I learned some Portuguese last year, I had to look up the meaning of the shop name, Ovelha Negra, in English, which is Black Sheep.

(Notice some knitter’s male partner waiting outside?? Heehee!)

The one-room shop is located in a well-trafficked area populated with other fun shops and restaurants.  Inside, I was mesmerized by all the colors and gradients lining the walls.

Because I have such a large stash, I was trying to focus on something special from this shop and/or from the region.  Ovelha Negra has several of its own yarn lines, and carries a few other commercial brands.  The shop owner shared several samples with me as I agonized over my selections, and the drape and hand of these yarns were fabulous.

The sample she showed me of Isabell Kraemer’s “A Girl’s Best Friend” in a rich goldenrod, light heather grey, and natural ivory in her “Victoria” single-ply wool yarn.  This yarn is 100% Portuguese wool, and the primary yarn in her shop that is Portugal-sourced.  The result was a substantial but not too heavy garment that looked as though the design were made for this yarn.  There is a photo of the finished object on the shop’s website, and it looks even more vibrant in person.  I was smitten, and some of this yarn would have come home with me if they had had that beautiful gold color in stock.

I’ve been thinking about designing shawls and stoles that incorporate interesting color transitions and a mix of lace and textured stitch patterns, so that was the driving force behind my selections.  This group is Amélia yarn, which is 100% merino, and I was thinking about denim / indigo shades when I selected these.


This group of Olívia shades will be some sort of experiment in light/dark of these two color families.  It is a 2-ply blend of 55% merino and 45% cotton.


And this group of Ofélia cakes was to indulge my love for pinks and greens together.  Ofélia is 100% wool from Ireland.  This yarn especially had so many colors and shades that I agonized over my choices for a Long. Time.


My somewhat extensive purchase was packaged up in this adorable tote bag!



I’ve been exercising my patience with two rounds of ripping my pink gradient shawl back.

The first time, I’m sure I didn’t make a mistake, but the stitch pattern looked wrong.  The second time, I eliminated two stitches per repeat, all in one row.  On this go-round, I’m concerned that I’ve now added two stitches per repeat, but that can be more easily fixed.

The good news is that Freia Laceweight Ombre stands up to the ripping.  I see no palpable difference in the quality of the yarn after all of this unexpected activity.

Re-working the same section over and over reminds me of  the book The Endless Steppe, in which a girl and her family are exiled to Siberia.  To survive, everyone in the family has to earn extra money if they can.  The girl knows how to knit, so she offers her talent to the woman who owns a cow, in exchange for milk and potatoes for her family.  The challenge is to take an old woven garment, recover balls of yarn from it, and re-knit it into something the woman with the cow can wear.  As the girl unravels the original object, she finds a million short pieces of yarn that she knots together, which makes the project all the more challenging.  [This detail makes me wonder whether a knitter wrote this or not, because as a knitter, I’m telling you, I would never knot the ends! And do what comes next!]  Due to all the knotted ends, the last bit of the process was for the girl to poke all the knots and ends to the back of the work so the front was smooth.  She made a jacket of some sort, and when the woman tried it on, she’d gotten too fat from her cow’s milk to fit into it, so she sent the girl back to unravel her work and make a new one that would fit her…


Tour de Fleece 2018

Amazingly, I have never participated in the Tour de Fleece, so I decided to go for it this year.  My goals are very modest: spin a little each day, generally with my Turkish spindle, and turn this into sock yarn:

After five days, this is what I’ve accomplished:

It’s not very impressive, but I’m on track with my goal, which is simply to spin a bit each day.  Once the cop is too big to accommodate more, I’ll pull it off and start chain-plying the yarn from the center-pull ball, like I did with the last batch of fiber.  At some point in the future, possibly by the end of the Tour de France / Tour de Fleece, I will have one or two balls of 3-ply superwash yarn with which to imagine socks.

Brand: The Fibre Studio Fifty Shades of Gradient

Fiber: 100% superwash merino

Gradient shawl in progress

I’m ignoring the loose loopy-ness on my pink gradient shawl that I showed you a couple of days ago, assuming it will work out in the blocking, and forging on ahead with a lace design.  Here is what it looked like before I frogged some of it. The top stitch pattern didn’t look right, but I ended up with the same results again, so I have modified the stitch pattern to suit my needs.

This photo depicts one and a half lace stitch patterns here, inspired by Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, but modified from their originals to suit my stitch-count purposes.  Whenever this design turns into a pattern, I will be charting them, because as you know, knitters fall into two camps, but we ought to all be in the charted lace camp!

Do you prefer charts or written directions?

Black Devil Anglerfish

If nothing else, I continue to learn about myself as I get older.  This time, the lesson learned is that I do not think amigurumi is for me.  I have had this adorable book for NINE YEARS and never knitted anything – though there is still hope that I will take up amigurumi needles again to create toys for children in my life.  Maybe.

To force myself to experiment, I signed up for a swap that gave me a long lead time, but true to form, I started the project mere days before the deadline.

This lady is truly formidable.  I am fascinated by the creatures we cannot see and have been flabbergasted by the things I have been able to see when I have gone diving.  It will never approach the apparent ferocity and cold-heartedness of this creature, though, who lures in her prey and temporarily allows a parasitic male into her life, only to completely absorb him and his complementary reproductive functions.  My version is roughly the same size as the real one pictured here.

The pattern was detailed and flawless.  I’m not sure I can claim the same about the execution.

What do you think about amigurumi?

Pattern: Deep Sea Anglerfish

Yarn: Malabrigo Sock (Azule) and Knitpicks Stroll (Train Station and Pearlescent)

Ravelry project page: Black Devil Anglerfish

Three-ply yarn from my Turkish spindle

I’ve been playing with this Turkish spindle since last October, when I picked it up at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF).  A friend turned me on to it, and I purchased one right after she did – I loved the feel of it, and the light weight, plus the magic of disassembly that leaves me with a center-pull ball at the end.

I was happily spinning away when I realized I had never learned to chain-ply properly.  In the midst of my research, I discovered a video explaining how to spin and chain-ply at the same time (well, almost – spin a segment, chain-ply, then wind your yarn on, then spin again …), but this is a next step, as I had already developed a medium-sized cop.  (I also consulted this Abby Franquemont / Interweave video on Turkish spindle spinning in general.)

The fiber origin is a bit of a mystery, but feels like a not-too-crimpy plain old wool: no merino, silk, or other additives.  I acquired it at a fiber guild auction at which some of the members were working to re-home and divest a large fiber supply of a woman that had passed away.  The only note was the total weight of the fiber.

The single is S-spun and (therefore!) the 3-ply is Z-spun.

Final result (so far – I have 7.5oz of the stuff) is 49g of worsted-weight three-ply yarn that looks good enough to me!

This morning, I started another batch, and it took me around an hour to spin 7g.  Over the weekend I spent 1+ hours plying.  So an almost-50g ball requires around 8 hours of work to complete.