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.

A little less than a week ago, I started my Camp Loopy project for July. July’s challenge is to knit a popular pattern that you have never knit before. Since I’ve knit very few popular patterns (I do not pay enough attention to the knitting trends, so I’m usually two or three years behind the bandwagons), I had a lot to choose from.

I decided to knit the Tempest Cardigan by Ann Weaver. I’m using Dream In Color Smooshy yarn in the colors Charged Cherry (a cranberry) and Rosalita (a pink), so I’ll have a nice tonally striped sweater.

Guys, I have never knit anything so fast in my life, I swear.

This was where I was on late Monday evening:

Untitled

Fifteen rows done, not too shabby

This is where I am now:

yarma

That’s a back and one and a half fronts done!

Seriously. This sweater is just flying. As long as I can keep from procrastinating on the sleeves (Ugh, sleeves), it’s definitely going to be done by the end of July. I don’t know if it’s the stripes or the fact that I really love the yarn, or the fact that it’s a pretty easy pattern (Straight stockinette with some increases, some decreases, and shaping that I modified to be shortrows instead of bind offs) so I can take it basically everywhere, but I’ve never had a sweater work up so fast.

It’s like magic. It’s the opposite of the knitting black hole. I feel knitting charmed right now.

(Now let’s hope that my happiness doesn’t totally cause a knitting meltdown where everything is ruined.)

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?

The sweater in action

I thought I loved my Wispy Cardi. And then I got to wear it. It turns out I don’t love it. I really, really, really, really love it. Seriously, I am so happy with it. I think, if I were to knit it again (which is not out of the question because it was a fun knit), I would make the sleeves longer and the back shrug part a little wider, because I think those are the proportions that would work best on my body. I actually knit the sleeves longer than called for in the pattern, and they are still a bit short for my taste. I would also knit the sleeves in the round to eliminate seaming, since we all know how much I love seaming.

But these are minor quibbles, and I still lovelovelove it. It’s soft and drapey and warm. (But it’s really not warm enough for the weather we have right now. It will be a perfect sweater for spring and fall.) I wet blocked it, which made the yarn bloom beautifully, so it’s got a lot of loft.

Some people, both in the comments and in my knitting group, have expressed concern over knitting a sweater in laceweight. As in, “That must have taken forever because laceweight yarn is so very tiny!” But this was knit on size US 7 needles for a gauge of 6 stitches and 8 rows per inch, which isn’t really that small, especially when you consider that this sweater doesn’t need fronts that go all the way across your body (it really is like a shrug with the body added). When you consider that, it’s really not that intimidating and no more knitting than any other standard sweater.

So here are some more shots of the sweater. I awkwardly played model and Ron graciously too pictures of me.

Wispy Cardi

The back of the sweater

Wispy Cardi

I love this gathering detail on the back

Wispy Cardi

The whole sweater. I was making a stupid face, so cropped my head out.

Lastly, in the comments Michelle asked if the arch shaping in the Roosimine sock made a difference in fit. I feel like it does. Here are pictures so you can judge for yourself.

Vanilla Socks with no arch shaping

Here is a plain vanilla sock with no arch shaping. I think my foot looks rather like a sausage.

Roosimine Socks with arch shaping

Here is the Roosimine sock, which has arch shaping. I think my foot looks rather more foot-like.

Maybe the difference is too subtle to show up in the pictures, but I notice a difference when I look at my feet in either sock. And I do notice a difference in how they feel. I think I’ll be adding arch shaping into socks where it won’t disrupt the patterning, because I do like it.

Blocking Sweater

Sorry this isn’t prettier. The place where I block has crappy light after dark.

I finally cast off my Wispy Cardi last night. I decided at the very beginning of knitting this sweater that I wanted to use the tubular cast on and bind off. Since every cast on/bind off edge has 1×1 ribbing, I figured it would work pretty well. Also, because of the sweater’s construction, one sleeve has a cast on edge and one sleeve has a bind off edge. Since the tubular cast on and the tubular bind off are identical, I thought it would be perfect.

What I didn’t count on was being in Kitchener stitch hell by the time I cast off the body. It took FOREVER. (Caution: The link takes you to a YouTube video that autoplays. But can I just tell you how much I still love The Sandlot?) Especially because I somehow made a mistake and ended up with an uneven number of stitches, so I had to undo about 90 stitches worth of bind off to correct it. I may have done a little swearing.

But it’s done and it’s fabulous and it’s blocking. This is the first sweater that I’ve made for myself that I am happy with. I like how it fits me and I can’t wait to wear it. I mean, looking back, there are things I might have done differently, but I’m still pretty over the moon about it.

Roosimine Sock

Because binding off took so darn long this weekend, I hardly got any work done on my socks or on the two shawls I’ve been working on. But I did finish the heel of the Roosimine sock (which is striped and I love it!) and am working on the gusset decreases/arch shaping. I want to finish at least the cuff of the first Echevaria Sock tonight, because the second clue comes out tomorrow, and I have literally done no knitting on it since I showed it to you last entry. So I probably should get to work, huh?

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.