Romi Hill Mystery Shawl

Romi Hill Mystery Shawl

When I was at Stitches West, I bought a mystery knit-a-long kit for a Romi Hill Shawl, with yarn by A Verb for Keeping Warm. Last month I needed something to cast on that I could knit in my guild meeting, so I started it that morning. I believe it was the first of my stitches yarn I actually cast on. (It’s okay, the yarn needed to age. Yeah, that’s it.)

I have to say, this shawl was like those potato chips with the slogan about not eating just one. I found myself saying “Just one more row” all the time. Part of it was the yarn–which was very soft and wonderful to work with, because it’s a blend of alpaca, silk, and cashmere. The only issue I had was that the yarn got a little tangled in the center-pull ball. I don’t know if it’s my ball-winder or the yarns I’m using (alpaca and silk can both be kind of sticky), but I’m just making an executive decision to start using my cakes as outside pull balls. I think I’ll be happier.

Romi Hill Shawl Closeup

A close up the shawl. I loved this part of the pattern.

The pattern itself also lent to the potato chip aspect, because it was so interesting, with a nice rhythm. I seriously knit this shawl in about two weeks (we won’t talk about the two more weeks it sat waiting for blocking and end weaving in). The only part that felt even remotely long was the knitted-on bottom border, but that may have been an unfair comparison because the section before it (with the colored diamonds) was just so much fun. (I won’t give away the secret, since it’s a for-pay pattern, but the method for making them diamonds is pretty ingenious and not how you would normally think colorwork would be done).

Romi Hill Shawl

The shawl in the wild.

The design is supposed to be reminiscent of a cactus flower, and even though I used different colors, I still totally see it. And as an added bonus, each pattern clue had a haiku on it that gave hints about the final pattern, until the last clue, which revealed it. I really love small, thoughtful touches like that from designers. It just makes me smile.

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I’m back. I’ve been not writing, because I’ve been in such a funk.

There are times in my life when I exist in a very bleak place. I get very hard on myself. I struggle. And I become convinced that I have nothing of value to give anyone. I make myself get up and go to work, convinced that I will be fired at any minute because I can’t possibly have anything of value to give as an employee. I find myself wanting to skip social engagements because I’m convinced no one wants me there anyway.

And I don’t write, because I’m certain that I have nothing of value to say to anyone. On top of that, getting up to do the bare minimum (that is, work and the minimum of grownup stuff necessary to keep oneself fed, clothed, and moderately clean) is so very much energy that at the end of the day, I don’t have any left to say anything. Even if anyone wanted to hear it, which (in that mood at any rate), I’m convinced that no one does.

I’m grateful every day for the supportive partner I have, who helps me get by in these hard times.

It hasn’t all been lounging around being sad. I have knit. I performed in two concerts. I took an acting class. I started a podcast. I just only did a lot of that stuff at the time because I had committed to other people to do it. I had committed to the singing gigs. I had committed to the class with Ron. I have a podcast partner I didn’t want to let down.

And none of that is a bad thing, because I ultimately want to do these things. It’s just that knowing that someone else is counting on me is what helps me find the energy to keep going. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that there are people in my life who help me remember what I want and hang in there until I feel like I can do things again.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m there yet. I’ve been working on so much and I have so much I want to share with you all. I’ll do my best.

You know when you go on vacation and you come back to work and you have so much work to do that you almost regret going on vacation? That’s kind of been my week, which is why I’m only just getting to this update now. Except that, no matter how hard it was to play catch up at work, I don’t regret going to Stitches West one bit. It was amazing.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a long entry.

I woke up at early o’clock on Wednesday morning and drove up to my parents’ house. They live about roughly two hours away from Santa Clara, so I thought it would be nice to see them (and my adorable little nephew) for a day. The drive up got a little scary, as I encountered snow. It was dark and windy and I drove over a mountain in a snowstorm, in a car that does not have snow tires. They actually closed the pass about a half hour after I got on it, so I was lucky to make it over. It was a long, slow crawl up the mountain, and we were frequently stopped completely. (That’s how I got this picture).

This is not a common sight where I live.

After that, it was smooth driving, and I had a lovely, quiet day at home with my parents and some of my brothers and sisters and my adorable little nephew.

Thursday morning, I again woke up early, had breakfast with my parents and drove to Stitches West. I was really excited. I checked in and took my first class, which was about creating bust darts with short rows, with Lily Chin. My mind was completely blown. She gave us really accessible math to figure out when to do darts and how much of a dart to do. It was amazing, and I am so excited to make a sweater that will fit like a dream. Also, Lily Chin is a kick and a half. She’s funny, gives a ton of information, but makes everything so understandable. I definitely recommend taking a class with her.

The other great thing about that class was I got to meet Jasmin and Gigi of the Knitmore Girls Podcast and Miss Kalendar of the Brass Needles Podcast. I am a huge fan of both of these podcasts, and it was really lovely to get to meet all of them. And Jasmin’s little girl is just as adorable in person as in her photos.

After class on Thursday was the Market preview. As this was my first time at Stitches West, I had heard about the Market, but never seen it. Everything everyone said was true–it’s amazing and huge and overwhelming. I had serious sensory overload. But boy did I find some lovely, lovely things. I could have easily spent five times what I spent, but I’m proud that I stayed on budget all weekend. (Of course I wrote down all sorts of other places to check out later, even if I hadn’t bought their stuff. Which just means I’ll spend more money on yarn later.) Then I went home and collapsed, exhausted.

Friday morning I had a class on Techniques for Beautifully Finished Sweaters. It was an all right class, but a lot of it was things I already knew how to do. I think I misunderstood what the class was when I registered. I would definitely recommend it to someone who did not know how to do tubular cast on and cast off or duplicate stitch, but I really didn’t learn much new. I really should have read the catalog more carefully. The teacher was good and the information was solid, it was just not new to me. I hung around the marketplace a bit after that, but then I went back to my hotel room to decompress for the rest of the day. I was getting some serious sensory overload happening and I just needed to settle.

Friday night I headed out for the pajama party. It was a lot of fun, with games and food and prizes. I hung out with Laura of Dizzy Blonde Yarns, and she and I may have cooked up some great mischief. More on that later. I also won two prizes–a skein of some lovely soft Cascade Pacific Yarn and a hat pattern for participating in hangman, and a skein of gorgeous lace yarn from Shaky K Fibers in a stunning bright blue. I won that one for getting up and singing a knitting parody song, which I made up on the fly. (This was a weekend of forcing myself out of my comfort zone–between that and actually talking to people I met, I think I did a good job).

The spoils of the night!

Saturday I had two classes. In the morning I learned how to line knit items with silk lining fabric. The class was not with Jean Frost of lined knit jacket fame, but was instead with someone who had test knit for her book, Gwen Bortner. We learned the lining techniques that Jean Frost uses, and made a lined glasses case. So theoretically, I now know how to line a jacket. But it would take about a million years, because my hand-sewing leaves much be desired. I’m still really excited about the whole thing, and definitely ready to play around with the technique to get better.

The inside of my glasses case. Proof that I need to work on my hand sewing.

In the afternoon, I learned how to play with traveling stitches with Cookie A. I love Cookie A’s patterns so much and I’ve knit several of her socks. It was really great to have her break down the math and charting behind designing ribs and cables that travel (as opposed to just being a vertical column). It also helps because I have a design I’ve been kicking around in my brain and her techniques might just make it work.

That evening, I decided to take myself out to dinner, instead of just eating the fruits and veggies I had in my hotel room. I wore my Celestarium shawl (I’d been wearing my knitwear all week because that’s what you do at Stitches), and went out to a restaurant. As I was leaving, some women ran after me to ask about my shawl. It turned out that one of them was the designer, Audry Nicklin. She took a picture of me and posted it in her blog. We had a really nice chat about designing and photography, and it was so great to meet her.

Sunday morning, I bid Stitches West a bittersweet goodbye. First I had a class on sweater finishing with Leslye Solomon (the link is to her store), which was fantastic. I feel a lot more confident in my seaming, which is part of knitting I’ve never enjoyed or felt particularly good at. Then I hung around the marketplace and waited for them to do the grand prize drawing. I didn’t win, which was too bad, because I really could have had some fun with $750 cash in the marketplace. Oh well. Then it was a long and exhausting drive home. I got home exhausted, overwhelmed, my brain crammed full of knitting knowledge, and ready to do it again next year!

Stay tuned for the obligatory this-is-the-amazing-yarn-I-bought post and my much delayed Liebster Award nominations (finally!).

On Sunday, I went on a huge finishing binge. I finished four works in progress. Granted, all three of them needed was ends woven in and blocking, but still, I actually finished four things! I present to you the list of all the things I finished.

I finished my Roosimine socks (finally!). All they required was weaving in ends, so it’s a little sad that I didn’t finish them earlier. In case you haven’t gathered, weaving in ends is not my favorite thing. But they are done and so very cute. I knit them out of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in the colors Cherry Fizz and Chocolatier.

Roosimine Socks

My favorite way to do colorwork

I finished my Echeveria Socks, which I knit out of Knitpicks Stroll Tonal in the color Springtime and in the undyed yarn. This was a mystery knitalong, which meant that I didn’t know what the finished socks would look like. But I really like them. And they were a really fun knit–there was cabling and colorwork, so I definitely did not get bored.

Echeveria Socks

These socks make me think of spring. I love this green.

I finished my Vertebrae Cardigan, which is an adorable frontless sweater. I made it for my adorable nephew. I get to see him when I go up to Stitches West, so I really wanted to finish it so I could give it to him. It’s knit out of Classic Elite Liberty Wool, in the Majestic Mountains colorway. I really like how it looks; it reminds me of those Southwest style mountain paintings.

Vertebrae Cardigen

The front

Vertebrae Cardigan

The back. I love how the colors turned out

And last, but not least, I finished my Celestarium. I know I said that I would finish it on Thursday night, but I miscalculated a little bit. The edging row was actually an applied, five-stitch wide garter stitch border. Meaning that for each stitch around the shawl (576 stitches for those of you keeping count), I had to knit 10 stitches (five on the right side and five on the wrong sides). Meaning that last row was 5760 stitches, the equivalent of ten rows of knitting.

I didn’t finish until very early Saturday morning.

But it’s done and so, so, so pretty. It’s made of Tosh Merino Light in the colorway Volga. The color variations knit up in such a way that it looks like when they take time-lapse photos of the sky and the stars all kind of smear (kind of like this.) I am so happy with it.

Celestarium

The whole shawl

Celestarium

Closeup

So now, the only thing I have on the needles is my ‘Olina socks, which is an odd situation for me. But that’s okay, because I have done literally NONE of my homework for Stitches West. So guess what I’m doing tonight and tomorrow.

It’s funny to me how knitters turn up in all manner of places. Yesterday I went to a talk/book signing for a new Lee Marvin biography and low and behold, there was another knitter. I was in line at the coffee shop attached to the bookstore, getting a cup of tea. She noticed my shawl (which is how I knew she was a knitter, because by and large non-knitters do not comment on knitwear). We exchanged a few words about knitting and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she were here for the same thing I was.” Then I went upstairs and, there she was. She was working on something pretty with beads. It’s not really where I would expect one to turn up, but then again, I was there too (I was knitting socks). By the way, if you have any interest at all in Lee Marvin, buy Dwayne’s book. Seriously. Buy it. Do not pass go.

Echeveria Socks

Moving on, I’ve been working on my Echeveria socks. I finished one sock, and cast on for the second one. Progress has been slow. I was almost done with the first cuff chart on Friday when I realized I had made a grievous and unfixable error. So I had to rip back, which was annoying. Then I made more mistakes and had to tink back a few rows again. Honestly, since I’ve already knit one with no mistakes, you would think I could knit a second one. But apparently not. I worked on them a bit at the Lee Marvin book signing, and I’m about to the part where I was when I had to rip them out.

The reason that progress has been so slow on the socks is mostly because I’m not working on them nearly as much as I’m working on my Celestarium. I’m determined to have it done to take to Stitches West. I’m on row 28 of the final chart, which has 55 rows total. There is also an edging row, so we can call it 56 rows. That leaves me 28 rows to complete. That may not sound like a lot, but each row is 576 stitches long at this point. I would like to have it completed by Saturday, so that I can block it on Sunday and have it ready to go. I’m leaving early Wednesday morning, so Monday is the absolute latest day I can block it to guarantee that it will be dry by Wednesday, so aiming for a Sunday blocking is giving me a one-day grace period. I need to find approximately 15 hours of knitting time between now and Saturday while also working full time, taking care of more stuff around the house than normal because Ron is sick, and having a couple of evening commitments this week. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

'Olina Socks

My miniscule progress on the ‘Olina Socks

I also cast on some toe-up socks for the Sockdown February Challenge. The pattern is ‘Olina by Emily Johnson from the book My Grandmother’s Knitting out of Handmaiden Casbah. I cast them on February 1st, and that is exactly how much knitting I have done on them. I somehow still believe that I will finish the Celestarium, finish the Echeveria, weave in the ends on the Roosimine, weave in the ends and block the Vertebrae cardigan by the time I leave for Stitches (which is in NINE days) and have these at a point where it’s feasible for me to finish them by the end of February. This is totally do-able, right?

Wow, I went a long time without writing. I’m going through a lot of transitions at work right now, both on a personal and a company-wide level. They will probably be good in the long run, but the transition time is murder and it is eating my brain. There are a lot of growing pains. On top of that, I’m off for four days later this month, and there’s a huge workload lately, so I’m drowning in my to do list. I’m working really hard on figuring out a way to manage my work schedule and responsibilities so that I don’t feel dead when I come home. I know I’ll get there, but thank you for bearing with me while I do it, and I’m sorry for all the delayed entries.

But I know you don’t read this blog for the fascinating content of me complaining about work, so we’re moving on to something much more exciting.

I finished the Frost Flowers Stole! Sunday morning, I woke up and decided that I was going to Kitchener all of those hundreds of stitches. I curled up in the armchair and I did it.

I have to admit, that after grafting, I held it up, and I was underwhelmed. The pattern wasn’t showing like I wanted it to at all. It looked like a spaghetti noodle-y mess.

Unblocked Shawl

This just isn’t that pretty

I had forgotten about the magic of blocking. Of course I was going to block the shawl, but I didn’t get around to it until Tuesday night. And then I remembered–some water and Eucalan and pins and wires, and you get pure magic.

Blocked Frost Flowers Shawl

Magic!

The whole thing

By the way, this thing is absolutely gigantic! It’s easily longer than I am tall. I had no idea it would be so huge, even though the pattern specifies it’s dimensions at 67.5 inches, which is quite a bit longer than I am. I consistently don’t read dimensions when it comes to projects that aren’t garments, so I’m always surprised at the size (or sometimes the lack of size) of my shawls. I really should look at those more closely.

But I’m so very pleased with how this shawl turned out. Someone in my knitting group joked that she would get married again if I would let her wear it (she has sworn off marriage forever, stating that her first–which ended in divorce–was one too many). I laughed at that. I laughed harder at the suggestion that she forget the wedding and just wrap up in the shawl (and only the shawl) for her wedding night.

One more, because I love it!

This is definitely one of the prettiest things I have ever knit and even though the pattern is a little daunting with its 992 stitch cast on and its 470-some-odd stitches to graft, it’s so worth it for what you end up with.

To recap, it’s the Frost Flowers Stole by Charlene Schurch, knit in Unique Sheep Marici Laceweight, in the color Sugar Baby. I used size 7 needles, with an incredibly long cord, and lots and lots of stitch markers.

It’s a good day today. After weeks of it being just really, really cold (for here), we’re having a really mild day. In fact, it’s warm enough that our rosebush is being tricked into blooming.

A pretty flower to distract you from the fact that I’m still just working on the same two projects.

I don’t have tons of updates to give. It’s the same bunch of projects. I’m working on the Frost Flowers Stole, which is moving along nicely. I’m working on the third and final repeat of the chart that makes up the bulk of the stole. Then all I will have left is the last chart and a million stitches to graft and it will be done.

And check it out, it actually looks like a rectangle!

I’m also working on (the beginning of) the foot of the second Roosimine sock. It’s going along nicely.

This sock is not really that pink. Seriously.

Other than that, I’m not working on anything new. I have a lot of projects on the needles to work on (my Celestarium Shawl, my Echeveria socks) but I really want to finish the Roosimine and the Frost Flowers first. I just want them DONE so I can have them. I have lots of projects I want to start, but I don’t really have that “I must start it now!” Start-itis feeling. I guess I have Finish-itis.

My Finish-itis also led me to finally pull something out I cast off ages ago and block it.

I swear this is not that obnoxious of a pink. It’s not pink at all. It’s red. Apparently today my camera did not want to take true pictures of reds.

This is a close up of the Margaret Dashwood Shawl from the Summer 2012 issue of Jane Austen Knits. You only get a close up because the whole thing is about 10 feet long and I’m not tall enough to get a picture of it all. I knit it out of Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino in a lovely red (despite what the picture shows, I swear it’s tones of reds and purples) that I had initially bought to make a baby sweater for my nephew. (It was going to become the Garter Stitch Baby Kimono that I ended up knitting out of Knitpicks Stroll Tonal). What I realized is that even though people apparantly machine wash Koigu all the time, it is not actually superwash. I just didn’t want to risk it or give a new mother a handwash only baby item. So the yarn became something for me! Which is fine because Koigu is just gorgeous yarn.

I love this shawl so much I’ve been wearing it unblocked. And I actually like how it looks unblocked, even though I’m usually a stickler for blocking lace. I think the fact that it’s garter stitch and kind of homey-looking makes the unblocked lace not bother me so much. So, I’m not blocking the lace out within an inch of its life like I normally do.

But there is a reason I decided I needed to actually get off my butt and block it. Remember that cool thing I said happened at knitting group last month but I didn’t want to say what it was at the time? Well, Merilyn, the owner of FoxyKnits is in my knitting guild and my Wednesday night knitting group. She sells Koigu. Lots of Koigu. (I actually bought the Koigu for the shawl from her). And she likes my shawl so much that she wants to use it as a sample in her booth at Stitches West!

I’m probably more excited about that than I should be, but it’s really cool to me that someone likes my knitting enough to think that putting a sample of it in their booth will sell yarn. So, if you end up at Stitches West, you can see my shawl in the FoxyKnits booth. Go say hi to it!