Oh my heavens, I’ve been itching to get this blog out for the last two weeks. 

I’ve just returned from vacation with my extended family, which was truly wonderful – I spent a lot of time with actual people (instead of my laptop).  This is, I suppose, the point of taking a vacation with one’s family.   No matter how much one’s laptop is clearly jealous – sitting right there on the coffee table, whimpering in neglect and beckoning with the sweet, glowing ember of its power indicator – family (at least a fun one) beats computer.

Frankly, however, now that I’m again surgically attached to the internet, I’m giddy with delight.  I’ve been busting to share my Ravelympics progress. 

I’d heard about the Knitting Olympics before, and had seen shiny little medals adorning a few knitting blogs, but I was a bit in the dark as to what it all meant.  Obviously it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to find out; but alas, laziness had won out over curiosity.  And, to be honest, I was a little frightened of the unknown:

  • What kind of project was required for this?
  • How would achievement be measured?  Would someone show up at my door to inspect my stitching?
  • Would there be actual physical activity required? 

(pause to catch breath)

  • Would there be a uniform involved?  Something without adequate coverage in the upper thigh area?
  • Would I be flogged if I let the team down?
  • Would sleep deprivation be involved?

On that last one, I did kind of hope I’d be pressured into knitting into the wee hours for days on end.  I’ll take all the help I can get when it comes to justifying knit-time.  If I took part in the Olympics, it wouldn’t be just me obsessing over my knitting, but, in fact, me and my country in our quest for the gold.

So I checked it out.  I found that the Knitting Olympics, as initiated years ago by The Yarn Harlot, is held only every 4 years in alignment with the Winter Olympics, and that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wouldn’t be leading a Knitting Olympics for this summer.  Ah, stink.

But – shocker! – I didn’t have to look much further to find that Ravelry was all over it.  The first ever Ravelympics was kicking off very soon, apparently.  Maybe because the actual Olympics were going to kick off?  Still a bit suspicious, I landed on gloriana’s post and read about her taking the plunge, and I was jolted into action.  I marched over to Ravelry, figured out the rules (clicking on big obvious links called “Ravelympics” does tend to clear things up), and decided quickly on the following projects:

  1. Niece gifts – I was inspired by gloriana’s niecie motivation, and conveniently, I’d recently found a pattern that would work well for both of my girls in their almost-3- and almost-1-year-old sizes.  The challenging part of these two projects would be not so much in technique, but in knocking them out quickly.  No dilly-dallying.  This is war, Peacock.
  2. Socks! – This was the project coming to mind that most closely fit on the “challenge” element of the Ravelympics call to action.  I’ve lurked around blog posts with people cooing over socks for a while, but I’d never dipped my toe in that water.  I decided I’d try it.  Secretly I hoped that I’d get hooked and start cranking out socks with the same glee I’ve so enviously observed.

The patterns:

  1. Little Girl’s Shrug
  2. Braided Cable & Broken Seed sock
  3. Raindrop Lace Socks

Little Girl’s Shrug

Casco Bay Worsted, 100% cotton

I picked up the Little Girl’s Shrug pattern at The Yarn Lounge in Richmond, Virginia, where I found myself a few weeks ago after passing through on business and visiting my dear friend Kimlee.  I loved The Yarn Lounge – I lingered for a loooong while and chatted with the lovely Melanie, not only about knitting but also about the indisputable merits of wine and cheese (oh, yummy).  I also picked up the perfect light summer cotton yarn for my two niece projects – on deep discount!  Purple for Maizy, pink for E-dot.

On my way back through D.C. a couple days after that, I stopped in at Knit Happens in Alexandria.  This LYS (Local Yarn Store) popped up on my radar after I found out about the Stefanie Japel design workshop they are sponsoring there the first weekend in November, just prior to her launch of Glam Knits.  I was gung-ho to splurge on a trip out to attend this workshop, but over the last couple weeks I’ve chickened out.  What if I can’t keep up?  Here comes that junior-high dodge-ball team-picking feeling again.

Neighborhood Fiber Co., Studio Worsted;

Neighborhood Fiber Co., Studio Worsted

Anyway, I drooled all over their yarn at Knit Happens and ended up walking away with a locally made yarn in a pretty deep purple variegated hue.  It may have helped that the sample knit for this yarn on display was designed by already-on-the-brain Knitting Pure and Simple, the maker of my Little Girl’s Shrug pattern.  This was a baby cardigan (pattern, incidentally, available free for download here), which in the store was modified to have buttons instead of ties as pictured on the website as linked above.  It was so darn cute I shelled over 13 smackers for 98 yards of the yarn they made it with.

Socks.  Well.  I happened to come across another couple of patterns at So Much Yarn the following week in Seattle (yes, I do get around), which was a shop recommended to me by knitsurg (the creator of a va-va-voom version of Stefanie Japel’s Orangina) on Ravelry.  Words can’t say how much fun I had in So Much Yarn, but of course I’ll give it a shot.  Beautiful, beautiful yarns, in a huge space, with lovely displays and a nice big table and workspace in back to peruse possible purchases and crunch the numbers on yarn yardage.  After meandering around in my comfort zone for a while (my comfort zone being just about everything except the sock yarn category), I broke down and asked for assistance in picking a good starter pattern and fiber for my Ravelympics sock project.  Theresa was very sweet and pointed me in the right direction in picking up the Braided Cable & Broken Seed Sock pattern, which has a lot of nice detail on techniques like the Kitchener stitch, and was designed by Lauren Lindeman, the owner of the shop.  I also picked up the pattern for Raindrop Lace Socks, which I liked a lot and decided to go for as an additional Ravelympics goal, in spite of Theresa’s concerned looks and comment that these socks might be “a little too advanced”.  Hmmmm.  I still think I can do it.

So – the update!  Boy, it took me a while to get to this part.


Cozy cardi

Before the button

Pattern #1, the Little Girl’s Shrug, I’m happy to report has yielded 2 FOs!  As I was with Maizy over my vacation, I hand-delivered her light purple cropped cardi, and my heart melted at her delight.  She strutted around saying how much she liked it, telling me once more for the road before she headed out at the end of our vacation, “Actually, Amy, I still really like this.”

Didn’t quite plan ahead with the button, so the purple sparkly number I picked out is going in the mail to her mom, along with the second FO, the pink one, for E-dot.  My flying fingers couldn’t quite finish off the arms on hers in time to give it to her before we parted ways.

Anyhoo, I really do like the way they turned out. 


front

The yarn, Casco Bay Worsted, was light and springy like the sample that sold me in the store.  Melanie at The Yarn Lounge told me there was no reason these couldn’t go in the washing machine.  Probably OK to machine dry as well, although there may be some shrinkage. 


back

I knit both shrugs on US 5 circular needles, with the tiny bit of arm ribbing completed on US 2 double-pointed needles.  The final fabric was soft and slightly textured to the touch.  I blocked each of these, but the purple one wasn’t quite finished at the time I declared it dry enough to let Maizy wear, so it could use a little more blocking to help the lace border, which I opted to use instead of plain ribbing on the body, lay nice and flat.

First ever cast-on for a sock

First ever cast-on for a sock

Pattern #2, the Braided Cable & Broken Seed sock, is in progress.  I admit to initial palpitations, as I had anticipated, working with all five US 2 double-pointed needles in my newly-purchased set per the pattern’s instructions.  It took me a while to get started, but I forged ahead, Helen

The picture on the right shows how far I got after over 2 hours of earnest work…yeah, not too far.  But immediately after I took that photo I made the decision to lose two of the needles.  Three was enough to comfortably get around the circumference of the sock, and it was much less of a headache.

I knit a bit more on the flight back from the Midwest where we were visiting family, but not a lot more because I had a happy and unexpected distraction – Lish, my aforementioned BFF, was on the same flight as me back to California, as she too had been back home for the weekend.  I didn’t know this until I saw her at the airport, at which time I was very pleased (and also feeling quite fancy and cosmopolitan with the bumping-into-of fabulous people in airports).  Hooray for happy coincidences and for cross-country airplane chats.

Right – for Ravelympics, it’s clear I’ll need to get my booty in gear to get through both socks (and at least start on my Raindrop socks, for pete’s sake) before the closing ceremonies.  I’m up for it.  I’m juiced at my progress so far.  There may be a lot left to do, but there’s nothing like pushing yourself in the name of knitting.  Stay tuned.

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I had brunch with my best friend over the weekend.  It had been a while since I’d seen her, and it made me sooooo happy to catch up. 

There are a boatload of reasons I couldn’t live without Lish.  She’s an amazing person.  Although we both live in California these days, we met far, far away in a land called New Jersey.  We both come from tiny towns in the same Midwestern state, although our paths didn’t cross until we were knee-deep in all things Jersey – back when we were wild-and-crazy twentysomethings. 

Familiar, anyone?

Familiar, anyone?

Both thoroughly white-bread and corn-fed at the time, with pale skin that could blind you in winter and (arguably more importantly) not much experience yet in the way of street smarts, we stuck out *just* a tad amongst the been-around-the-block-a-few-times Italian-American brew that is Northeastern NJ.  Our specialty was dancing in bars that weren’t actually set up for dancing, as well as harassing DJs until they would play “Sweet Caroline” for us (so good! so good!) and hurling ourselves toward the stage when local cover bands struck our fancy.

Since then we’ve taken our show on the road to any state, country, or continent that will let us in.  Our passports have taken a nice beating together, and it’s fair to say we’ve gained a fair bit of worldly wisdom (some days this is debatable).  One jet-set long-weekend trip took us to Portugal – my recollection includes a very sweaty hike up to the top of a Moorish castle and some guy named Paolo? Marco? Marco Paolo? – but that’s a story for another post. 

However (here comes the segue) – Portugal is the place that harbors the location that inspired my new knitting project.

I’ve had this project in my unofficial queue for a while now, but haven’t Ravelried* it yet because I’m kind of making it up as I go along.  I wouldn’t say I’m designing this sweater, really; I’m loosely basing it on a sweater I picked up a few years ago when I was at The End of the World

Ah, yes – good question.  Basically, this is a very, very windy place on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic at the the southwesternmost point in Europe.  Back in the day, before their little boats made it over to the Americas, the Europeans considered this the edge of the world: a horizon of churning water stretched as far as the eye could see, beyond which lurked the abyss.  Whodathunk there were a bunch of people across the pond, eh, guys?  Silly landlubbers.

 Fisherman's Sweaters

Fisherman's Sweaters

Right.  So when you’re at The End of the World, it’s not only a minor tourist attraction with a nice view and a story to go with it, but also an opportunity to freeze your patootie off.  Even on a bright, sunshiny mid-summer day like the one of my visit, it was nippy, with wind gusting in every direction.  I need to find the photo from that trip to properly illustrate this; the one in which I’m still shooting for glamorous with my pose, but all bets are off with my swirling hair captured with all split-ends pointing north – straight up, Paula.

It’s-Not-Really The End of the World was a draw for me as a side trip from the warmer climes of the beach far below mostly because of the “seaworthy sweaters” that my guidebook told me were on offer there.  I envisioned a weather-beaten crinkly-looking Captain Ahab, perched next to his ramshackle lean-to of a vendor stall, balancing on the leg that wasn’t his peg-leg, eyeing me suspiciously, ready for me to barter with him for one of his authentic salty-sea-smelling jumpers.  Of course, these would be hot off the needles; pleasantly-irregular creations that the missus was whipping up for him back down on the boat in his quarters.  Maybe after we shook on the deal for one of his wife’s crafts, he’d mutter “Arrrrrrr” gruffly under his breath as I walked away.  In my last glance back at him before forging ahead to the mighty sea, I might even catch him picking at his teeth (what remained of them) with his steel hook of a hand.

Hmmmm.

authentic

One word: authentic

Ahab turned out to be a Portuguese kid wearing a Yankees T-shirt and outlandishly shiny bling.  The missus was nowhere in sight, but I suspect she may have been kicking her feet up after hitting the “go” button on the industrial-grade knitting machine a few hundred times. 

Even though it was a teensy bit different than I’d imagined, there was still a nice display of sweaters that did indeed look seaworthy.  Machine-made with acrylic or not, these little fellas had led me here – I’d come a long way and was going to have a look.  Plus I was starting to get pretty cold, and they were looking mighty warm.

The Fisherman’s Sweaters weren’t incredibly ornate – just very simple Aran-inspired designs, most with a few cables and big cozy collars or turtlenecks; some with cheesy design patterns, some more plain and to the point, which were the ones I liked best.  Bulky knits, as you’d imagine, and in an array of earthy tones.  True, the cardboard boxes they came out of didn’t foster that handmade feeling, but I still decided I needed to take a sweater home with me (and/or immediately pull it over my wind-whipped mane and shivering blue lips).  I chose one in a heathery sandy color with a short zip at the top to keep out the wind, and proceeded to speedwalk out to the edge of the cliff for a gander before scampering back to the safe haven of the car.

When I bought this sweater, I wasn’t yet a knitter, and frankly, would have been shocked at the time to learn that I’d ever become one (such was my aversion to anything approaching a domestic art).  However, since I’ve picked up the needles, it’s crossed my mind that it would be fun to re-make this sweater with a nicer natural fiber and a few modifications to make it just right.  I’ve seen a host of patterns out there for something similar, but I’m going to give this a go with making my own measurements and building a pattern based on the gauge of the yarn I choose.

Driftwood

Color: Driftwood, 161

And that yarn is:  Rowan Plaid.  Poor Rowan Plaid.  Why discontinued, why?  Not that I’ve made anything from this yarn yet so as to form a strong attachment, but it just seems so well-loved by the knitting community at large.  I’ve had a few Ravelrers message me to ask if I’m willing to sell part or all of my Driftwood colorway, but I’ve had this stashed specifically for my Fisherman’s Sweater since the Rowan Plaid pattern book caught my eye with its chilly-seaside photo spread.  I grabbed the last of this colorway on sale at Jimmy Beans (after a flirtation with and eventual purchase of Sea Kelp for another project) when they were liquidating the last of their Plaid inventory last year.  So sad.  The fact that they were getting rid of it, that is – not the fact that I was lucky enough to snag it before it was gone!

Chilly.  Seaside.

Chilly. Seaside.

Bottom line – my baby’s now on the needles, and I’m lovin’ it.  No good light for a photo of my work yet, but will do this soon.

If it turns out as fabulously as I’m planning for it turn out, I’ll post the pattern for anyone who wants to give it a shot.  Easier to decide if you’re in this category, of course, after you’ve seen the final product.  When I’m finished we’ll decide how the original acrylic prototype – the photo of which I will hold in suspense for now (meaning I haven’t gotten around to taking it yet) – stacks up to my creation.  Here’s hoping this moves along without any tears, other fits of drama, or industrial-grade knitting machines.  Stay tuned, just in case.

 

 
*Oh, ravelried – don’t you just love the verb form?   I’m sure it’s been done before, but I’m now declaring “ravelry” as not only a noun but also a verb, in all its glory:

1rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ noun —  website community where all the cool knit-kids hang out
2rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ verb —  to enter the details of a knitting project, pattern, fiber, or accessory on one’s profile on the aforementioned website, so that everyone can see what you’re up to, or plan to possibly be up to in the future

 

Inflected Form(s):

rav·el·ring; rav·el·ried \ˈra-vəl-riŋ, ˈra-vəl-rēd\

 

Related:

rav·el·rer \ˈra-vəl-rər\ noun — one who ravelries

 

It’s a sleepy Sunday afternoonish evening, and I’m feeling quite pleased with my lazy day – the first one in a long while.  Oh joy, I spent much time in rounding the bend of the home stretch of the getting-a-little-old-now ribbing to finish my tube vest.  Definitely within reach now – 3 inches left according to the pattern, but I’ll probably do at least another 2-3 extra inches to come within normal waist range on my tall-girl frame.  In any case – I want it to be done approximately now

I actually cast on my airy wrap last weekend, which I said wasn’t going to do yet, but extenuating circumstances called for Plan B: I found myself unable to proceed with my WIP as I had fantasized and was forced to re-assign my captive plane-knitting time to start the new project.  Oh, the tragedy.  Let’s just say I am occasionally 12 years old; in these times my little heart gets all smashed when my (apparently not-so-well-planned) plans get de-railed.  There were tears involved; also an AWOL US 5 circular needle, a poor inventory selection at Michael’s, and then, a rush to the airport.  I think I’d better change the topic in order to avoid post-traumatic stress.  Why yes, I am slightly insane.

Until my fingers can manage to finish the job on the aforementioned belatedly near-completion WIP, I’ll go ahead and update you on another FO from the past year or so.  Today’s happy subject is the Cabled Baby Blanket from Simply Baby, by Debbie Bliss.  The pattern calls for Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK, and although an alluring idea at first (would be so soft and luxurious against my new niece’s skin! expensive? no, it’s an investment, an heirloom!), enough so that I was narrowing down the color palette, I eventually came to my senses.  I read a couple reviews on Yarndex that made me think about the durability (and likelihood to pill), and then I went overboard reading many, many other reviews about others’ baby yarn favorites:

  • Never use acrylic for baby items!  Don’t you know it’s flammable??
  • Never use wool for baby items!  So many babies are allergic!
  • Always use something machine-washable!  Anything that needs hand-washing won’t get used!

The first two I took under advisement, but it was the third one that made me say, “Amen, sister.”  Sure I’d be happy to have the blanket be considered an heirloom, but more than that I’d like it to be used.  Really used.  Like I’d love it if it became the tattered but beloved woobie over time.  My sister had already birthed another child (who missed out on a baby blanket from me altogether since I couldn’t generate anything from a set of knitting needles at the time she was born – uh, sorry, Maiz);  I’d been around enough to see the mountain of baby clothes, baby washclothes, and baby bedding that she was continually churning through the laundry.  Even with one baby on her hip, hand-washing anything was not going to happen, let alone with a baby and a toddler.

I stumbled across lots of proclaimed tried-and-true favorites in my research  – Baby Ull by Dale of Norway was one that got rave reviews from many, but the gauge was a bit too small for the Debbie Bliss blanket.  I settled on Cascade 220 Superwash, which given my recent tendecy to Cascade everything isn’t surprising, but at the time I hadn’t compared the Superwash version to the regular 220 wool.  I ordered it in a brighter pink than the blushing, softy-soft barely pink colors I’d frequently seen in yarn colorways created “especially for baby”.  I figured my niece was going to come out one sassy chica just like her mama, and no wimpy pink was going to cut it.  I was careful, however, not to stray into the hot-pink range, lest she later think I was stuck in the 80s when I picked out her blanket color to match my neon shoelaces from junior high.

I like the detail in the cabling of this blanket – so pretty, and although I think the stitch looks complex, it’s not.  It’s just right to keep the stitching interesting, and you memorize the pattern quickly enough that you just keep chipping away at it while you’re doing other things without the interruption of pattern checks.  The color is Cascade Superwash 836.  I made it several inches longer than recommended because it just didn’t seem long enough for me at 31 1/2″.  I ordered 5 skeins of the 220 (pattern called for 7 skeins of Cashmerino at 137 yards each) and still had plenty left over.

My tension matched the recommended gauge with the US 6 (in the cable pattern, US 5 for the end borders), but before blocking, the cable stitches seemed too tight to me; not enough space to appreciate the stitch definition, and too tight to be drapey and soft.  Not too worry – blocking to the rescue.  I gently washed and rinsed with softener (I’m such a sucker for Downy – in the original April Fresh scent from the good old days with Mom, not these new-fangled Lavender or Linen scents), towel-dried (I like the roll-it-up-in-a-towel-and-walk-on-it method, at least for a sturdier fiber like this), and proceeded to stretch the heck out of it.  I held the corners and edges taut with many impressive-looking (yet unread, at least by me) hardbound ]books and let that puppy slowly air dry for nearly 2 days.  I think it was good and done within a day, but I wanted the blocking to be perfect, so I just didn’t touch it.

I started this project in May, once my sister knew it was going to be another girl; I nabbed the pink yarn, got down to business, and wrapped it up at the end of July before she delivered my lovely niece – E-dot.  Now that E is nearly 9 months old and has a bit more say about which blanket she gets to roll around on (OK, just pretend with me that she does), I’m pretty sure she likes my blanket the best, in comparison to the others in her closet.  I’ve seen the way she drools on it, and I think that speaks for itself.  She knows a nice superwash wool when she sees it.