On New Year’s Day I cast on two pairs of socks as part of the January Sockdown Challenge in the Sock Knitter’s Anonymous group on Ravelry. Basically, each month has a theme or technique, one or two chosen designers, and every other month there is a mystery knit-a-long. (A mystery knit-a-long is where the designer releases the pattern in a bunch of little “clues” and you don’t know what the finished product looks like until you finish.) Within the month, you cast on a pair of socks that either fits the theme/technique, is designed by one of the month’s chosen designers, or you participate in the mystery knit-along. Your pair must be finished within two months.

This month’s theme was flora/fauna, so patterns that had plant or animal themes. I found this theme really inspiring. I also really loved one of the designers–Caoua Coffee. So I cast on one of their patterns, which also happens to fit the flora and fauna theme.

Roosimine Socks

Roosimine Socks

The pattern is called Roosimine. I love it. I especially love the colorwork technique, which is one I’ve never used before. It’s called roositud inlay. It’s an Estonian technique, and it makes the socks look embroidered, without actually embroidering. I LOVE IT. And I’m really inspired to use this technique in some designs I have floating around my brain.

I’m knitting them out of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in the colors Cherry Fizz and Chocolatier. (And it’s from the stash, so go me!). Hazel Knits Artisan Sock is one of my favorite sock yarns. It’s nice and smooshy with amazing stitch definition, and it wears really well.

Echeveria Socks

Echeveria Socks

The other pattern I’m knitting for the Sockdown challenge is the mystery sock. It’s called Echeveria, which is a type of plant. We’ve only gotten the first clue, and I’m almost done with it on the one sock. I should have been smarter and divided the yarn so I could work on both socks at once as I got each clue, but I didn’t, so I’ll have to put that sock on waste yarn and knit from the other end of the ball to do the other cuff. I learned something for next time! I really like the pattern so far.

I’m knitting this out of Knitpicks Stroll Tonal in the colorway Springtime (also from the stash). I have some natural Stroll yarn as well, which I’ll probably dye to be the contrasting color that the designer assures us we’ll need for later in the pattern.

I plan to work on these over the weekend and also I’m going to finish my Wispy Cardi. I only have like four inches left to go, and it has been freaking chilly here so I really, really want to wear it. I’m going to finish the darn thing this weekend.


Spinning on a Schacht MatchlessYesterday, I got to spin again. And then I got to ply the single I spun with another single (one that the teacher had spun). Plying is much easier than spinning, but it still takes some practice to avoid over- or under-twisting the yarns together. It didn’t help that my singles are still a little (okay, a lot) wonky. There are thick bits and thin bits. It’s also quite different from the teacher’s single in weight, so the yarns plied together in a funny way. Parts of it look like phone cord, parts of it look like Lion Brand Homespun yarn (which I happen to think is the devil), and parts of it look like normal yarn. I’ll Kool-Aid dye it and knit it up into something, just to see how it looks.
My second handspun ever.  It's a 2-ply undyed yarn.

To tell the truth, I was getting super frustrated in class, because I just could not get the hang of it. Everything was overspun or underspun, highly uneven, and had these huge slubs (big bits of unspun roving, where I couldn’t draft fast enough). But at the end of class, when I was just about ready to give up, I finally managed to do the short forward draw closer to correctly and was getting much more even yarn and real-looking yarn. It suddenly just clicked and I was doing it correctly more of the time than I wasn’t doing it correctly. And all of a sudden, there was some spinning zen that I keep hearing about. And it was lovely.

I’m also knitting up a swatch with my single from last week, just to see how it looks. I had this idea of making it into something, but I’m not super happy with the way this yarn knits up. Knit flat, the gauge is so inconsistent that the edges look very uneven. I may try knitting it in the round to see if that makes a difference. I don’t like untidy edges in my knitting, so I’m not sure if I will be able to use this yarn for anything real. Which is fine. This is all supposed to be a learning experience at this point.

My pink handspun swatchHowever, I am absolutely over the moon with how well the colors turned out. I love the yarn ever more knitted up than I did in the skein. I think getting to dye my own handspun is going to be one of my favorite parts of spinning! It is such a pretty pink that it seems a shame to not use it for something. It looks really good next to my face, I think it would make a lovely headband for me. So if anyone has tips on knitting with thick and thin yarn, please let me know. I’m afraid that there is probably too much difference between the thick and the thin bits to be workable, but if you have tips or patterns, I’d love to hear them.

My lovely pink handspun yarnI’m really pleased with how my handspun yarn turned out after my Kool-Aid dying. It’s a really pretty pink. I’m totally in love with the variegated look that it has (which I did intentionally). I actually had wanted to do a pink/blue variegation, but my supermarket had no blue Kool-Aid. It did have two flavors of cherry (black cherry and regular cherry), plus strawberry, pink lemonade, and tropical punch. To be clear, that is five varying shades of reds/pinks, and no blue. I distinctly remember blue Kool-Aid in my childhood; I don’t know if it was discontinued or if my supermarket just sucks. But since my blue plan was thwarted, I got black cherry, strawberry, and pink lemonade to create the pinky/red yarn you see here. I’m thinking that it might knit up into a really fun headband. I think I want a button closure, with a really fabulous button as embellishment. I’m actually really excited to be knitting with my first handspun yarn, as absolutely nerdy as that is. I don’t care. I revel in the nerdiness.

100000 stitches down, only about 972 million stitches to go...To tell the truth, the idea of doing a small and simple instant gratification headband is nice. Because one of my projects is huge and it is going to take forever. I am working on the infamous Frost Flowers Stole out of Unique Sheep Marici Lace Yarn in the Sugar Baby colorway (which is a pink that transitions to spring green). It is going to be absolutely beautiful when it is done. But it is taking forever.

See, this pattern starts with the phrase “Cast on 992 stitches.” Nine hundred ninety two stitches. NINE HUNDRED NINETY TWO STITCHES. The ladies in my Wednesday night knitting group all laughed when they read it. Because, really? Who does that? Don’t get me wrong, it makes perfect sense in the context of the pattern, which is actually a brilliant and interesting construction, which ends with the knitting grafting about five hundred stitches in the center at the end (which also made my knitting group laugh, because again, who does that?)

But I am not intimidated. This shawl is gorgeous and I want it. I am not afraid of a long cast-on and huge stretches of Kitchener stitch! So I decided I would cast on in the car when the boy (hereafter known as Ron) and I drove up to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. That did not work out so well, because even with stitch markers, I kept losing count, mostly because Ron needed someone to talk, so he could stay awake while driving. I had the same problem all Thanksgiving weekend–I have four brothers and sisters (well really five, but that is a long story for another day), a sister-in-law, a new nephew, a probable future brother-in-law, it’s noisy, we were playing games and talking and eating…the point being that I had no real time in quiet to cast on. It took all weekend just to cast on. But I did and I knit four whole rows on it once we got home. And then, that Sunday night, I made a fatal mistake, and had to rip the whole thing out and start over. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the yarn hopelessly tangled as I frogged it.

There was cursing and tears and I swore off knitting forever. And then I spent two days (!) untangling the mess that this beautiful laceweight silk yarn had become. I was so mad. Four days work down the drain, plus another two lost to that stupid tangle.

But I was undefeated. I untangled the yarn. I cast on again (this time, as I was not so distracted; it only took me three hours *lolsob*). And now I have about ten rows knit on the thing. I did make one mistake in row six that required me to unknit an entire row (of almost 1000 stitches) to fix (and then I was ready to give up completely), but since then, it’s been going okay. (And now that I’ve said that, I am prepared for a new disaster tonight). I’m just hoping I get it done in time for Stitches West, because that much work needs to be shown off to other knitters.

Pink MmmmmmmalabrigoSpeaking of Stitches West, I also hope to have a couple of sweaters done by the time I go. I still have my Wispy Cardi on the needles. It’s just waiting for me to block the sleeves so I can seam them, then I can pick up and knit the neck and the body. And then I have this lovely bag of dark pink Malabrigo that needs to be a sweater. I want a cabled hoodie. I was thinking of doing the Mariah sweater from Knitty. I’ve loved this sweater since I first saw it in Knitty, because I love the cabling on it. However, I don’t really want a zip-up hoodie, and there is no waist shaping. I could always add waist shaping (which is easy) and convert it to a button front (which is doable but a little more challenging). However, I have also heard about some pattern errata, so I’m torn. The other option I was looking at is the Twist Cardigan from Chicknits. I know the pattern is good and I really like it (and it has shaping and a button front), but I like the Mariah cables better. Hmmm….maybe I will see if I can Frankenstein them together into an unholy, but awesome hybrid sweater. Thoughts?

And just so you don’t think every single blessed thing I knit is pink (because there is a lot of pink happening in this entry right now), here is a hat I knit for the baby meatloaf. As you can see, it is greenish blue, and not pink, because the meatloaf is a manly baby. Honestly, I’m sure he wouldn’t care if he had a pink hat, but I had leftover yarn from my Edith socks and it just happens to be blues and greens, so I made him tiny socks and a matching hat, because knitting tiny things for babies is fun. (And yes, I stuck it on a ball of yarn to photograph it. We are running rather short of babies to use for modeling purpose at our house, so I make due with what I can.)

Yarn of all colors blowing in the windAnd I took another three month (almost) break. Life gets in the way. I was taking an acting class that ended up taking much more time than I thought it would (I actually had to memorize stuff and rehearse outside of class), plus there was other stuff. Holidays, birthdays, family stuff. While I was away from the blog, my sister-in-law had her baby! So I have a new nephew. I’ve already made a bunch of stuff for him, but I gave it to him over Thanksgiving, and I stupidly took no pictures. Oh well.

While I was away, I was very productive. In addition to lots of nephew-related knitting, I did lots of other knitting, which we will catch up on over time. But I’m more excited about what I did in relation to making actual yarn. First, I took a trip with my Wednesday night knitting group up to Llama Farm in Apple Valley. It was freezing. Like incredibly cold and windy. But the trip was amazing! We got to pet llamas, had a great lunch (they made a delicious pumpkin stew and salad from their own garden), and (the best part) learn to dye our own yarn. In the above picture, my yarn is the pink and purple one right in the front. I’m pleased with how it turned out. I have yet to knit it up into anything, but I have plans. It’s 220 yards of worsted, so I’m thinking wristers/armwarmers.

A point-of-view shot of a Schacht Ladybug double-treadle spinning wheel in actionIn even more exciting news, I took my first spinning class on Saturday. There’s a shot of the wheel I rented for class (a Schacht Ladybug) in action. We spun worsted singles (as in spinning style, not weight) out of 2 oz bumps of undyed blue-faced leicester wool, which is a long wool. The instructor was really cool and super knowledgeable. What this really did was cement my love of spinning and my desire for a wheel of my own. In particular, I really want a Schacht Matchless Double Treadle Wheel. It’s a huge expense (no seriously, they are about $1100), so I’m saving my money. Hopefully by 2014, I will have one. In the meantime, I’m looking to get my hands on a drop spindle so that I can practice drafting and such. Unfortunately, none of my local yarn stores seem to carry them, so I guess I’ll have to order one from online.

My first handspun, undyed.My yarn itself was…somewhat of a disappointment. For some reason, I really thought I would have enough control over my drafting to spin something nice and even and pretty. Instead, I got a thick and thin mess full of overspun bits and underspun bits. There are sections of the yarn that are laceweight thin, and other sections that are super-bulky thick. The funny thing is, I was browsing the yarn shop afterward, and I realized that it looks a lot like some of the novelty yarns in the shop with the thick and thin bits and the overspun bits. Everyone I know who spins keeps telling me that those qualities are big in certain novelty yarns, and that when spinners get better, they miss the ability to generate that kind of yarn. It’s apparently hard to do what I did on purpose. Personally, since novelty yarns aren’t my thing, I’ll be glad when I can make nice even singles that I can ply up and use for shawls and socks and sweaters.

Since undyed yarn is boring, and our homework for next week was to knit up what we did, I just dyed my yarn with some Kool-Aid in the microwave. It turned out a little lighter than I wanted, because I don’t think I used quite enough Kool-Aid. I think I needed to use the whole packet, not just half. But it’s still really pretty pinks and reds. It’s currently drying in the shower; I’ll post pictures tomorrow. (Or whenever it’s sunny and dry. It’s been quite rainy here the past few days, so it may take some time to really dry). I’m thinking I’ll knit it up into a little bag that I can line. I’m really excited for next Saturday’s class, where we will cover plying. I know that the last thing I need in my life is another craft, but what’s a girl to do when there is so much to make? Honestly, I blame The Knitmore Girls and The Yarn Harlot. With the way they talk about spinning, how could I resist?