For the first time, I decided to enter some of my knitting into the Orange County Fair. I’ve wanted to enter in the past, but I’ve always missed the deadline, but this year I managed to be together enough to do it. I entered 5 pieces, three shawls (Tiong Bahru, the Romi Hill Cactus Flower Shawl, and the Frost Flowers Shawl) and two sweaters (the Alice Starmore Saint Brigid sweater I made my mom for Christmas and the Safe at Home Cardigan I designed as a tribute to Gram Parsons).

When you enter things in the fair, they don’t tell you if you’ve won and they don’t post results online until at least 3 weeks after the fair opens. So when the fair opened last weekend, even though I tried to pretend that I didn’t really care, I really, really wanted to see how I did. (I didn’t expect to win anything, but I wanted to see anyway). So I kind of badgered Ron into going to the fair with me last Sunday. We walked around a bit, looked at some of the ridiculous fried food that was on offer (apparently, fried Jack Daniels is a thing this year), and then made our way to the home arts and handcrafts building. All of the fiber arts displays (which includes quilting, needlepoint and embroidery, sewing, tatting, weaving, and knitting and crocheting) were lovely and there were some absolutely gorgeous pieces. So imagine my surprise when I saw that I was a division winner (which is one step below Best in Show) for both knit and crochet fashion accessories (the Romi Hill shawl won) and hand-knit clothing (for the Safe at Home Cardigan).

Safe at Home Cardigan and Cactus Flower Shawl

Proof of the wins

I was so very surprised, simply because there are so many very talented fiber artists in Southern California, but I’m really happy about it. What surprised me is that the pieces I thought had the best chance of winning (the Frost Flowers and the Alice Starmore, simply because they are both huge and complicated) didn’t even place in their classes. I’m hoping that when I get my stuff back, there will be judges comments, because I’d love to know what I can do to improve myself and what I’m doing well.

Did you enter your county fair? Let me know; I love to hear stories about your triumphs or learning experiences.

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Artsy lace shot, just because


I spent the month of June at camp. Not real camp, Camp Loopy. The rundown of Camp Loopy is that each summer month, the Loopy Ewe issues a challenge. If you complete the challenge in a month, you win! You don’t win an actual thing, just the knowledge that you did something. Although I think if you do all three challenges you get yarn. It’s hard to turn down free yarn. Or yarn you earn by knitting. (As a side note, I’ve never been to real camp. From all of the various shows and movies that I watched as child featuring kids at a sleep away camp, I don’t know that I’m heartbroken about this.)

The challenge for June was to knit a one-skein project that used at least 375 yards of either lace- or fingering-weight yarn, in a yarn that you had never used before.

I loved this challenge because it’s not like I need an excuse to try a new yarn, but it’s nice to have one. I chose to use some Fleece Artist Saldanha Two Lace Yarn, in the colorway Vermillion. And the shawl I chose was the Tiong Bahru by designer Asa Tricosa.

yarma

The whole shawl, blocking

I loved this pattern. It was wonderful to knit. But blocking it kind of sucked, I’m not going to lie. You see all of those little loops on the edge? They all had to be pinned out one by one.

yarma

Like this. Seriously.

It took forever. Especially because I had to keep stretching and re-pinning. That’s kind of par for the course when it comes to blocking lace, but when you have about twenty times the pins you normally do, it’s pretty painful.

I actually had to throw in the towel the first time I tried to block it. It was a night that I had work the next morning and it was taking way to long and getting way too late for me to finish. So I had to re-do it on a weekend, when I had more time.

I guess it’s worth it though, because now I have this:

2d006819-df0a-41ce-9e63-e140aa8b4ca0

More artsy lace!

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.

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!

I’ve worked on three projects tonight, two knitting related and one Christmas related. One of them is making me frustrated and sad, but two of them are making me so very happy. I guess that balances out. I guess that more than balances out.

Ugh.

When I got home today, I finally bit the bullet and seamed up the sleeves on my Wispy Cardi. I really, really want to get past this step so I can move on and get a sweater. But I’m not terribly happy with the seaming. This is the second time I’ve done it. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I’m taking a class in finishing techniques at Stitches West, which I’m hoping will help my finishing skills. I’m okay doing mattress stitch on straight seams. Where I have trouble is when I have increases and decreases so the edges are angled. I don’t know if I’m just not going into the stitches the right way.

I’m debating ripping it out and redoing it again. Or maybe ripping out the whole thing and re-knitting them in the round so I don’t have to deal with seaming at all. I can’t decide if I can live with the job I did or not. I want to love this sweater, because the Malabrigo is so nice and soft and it will feel amazing to wear. I don’t want to be ashamed of it.

So pretty.

After I put that aside in indecisive disgust, we decorated the tree. I’m so happy with it. It’s really, really, really beautiful. Ron found the little houses at a hardware store, so we have a little Christmas village underneath, which makes me even happier. They’re really, really cute. You can see little people inside them, having tea and baking cookies. And with that, it finally feels like Christmas.

Celestarium Shawl

Also so pretty.

Tonight (even though I should be working on the secret project, since the tree is undeniable proof that Christmas is indeed in a week) all I want to do is sit, look at my tree, and work on my Celestarium. This pattern makes me so happy. It’s beautiful. And the Madelinetosh merino light I’m knitting it in knits up like butter. I love the random placement of the beads (which isn’t really random, since it’s making constellations). The lack of repetition means I don’t get bored. And the fact that I’m starting to recognize the constellations formed, because it truly feeds my inner geek. I’m loving this shawl more than I can say.

I swear, I’ll be good and work on the secret project tomorrow. Tonight I want stars.

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.)