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.

Whew – taxes are done, and not a minute too soon. Finally blog-posting does not = procrastination.

Today I introduce you to my favorite FO (Finished Object – my goal is define each term when I use it for the first time here) at this stage of my knitting career. It was also the project that’s taken me the longest, but like the title says, it’s a long cardigan.

Let me just say that it took me forever to find just what I wanted for a cardigan, or at least my first cardigan. This is not surprising considering that it often takes me yonks to make a decision.

I’m tall, and part of what I love about knitting is that I can custom-make the length of sleeves (to accommodate my monkey arms) and also the torso.  I have a lot of things in my closet that inconveniently hit just above my waist instead of at or below like they would on anyone else (I can’t help myself when it’s so cute hanging on the rack – I want to buy clothes in stores like other girls!).  In this case, I figured I might as well take the long idea and run with it, just because I could.

I didn’t expect to be so picky (I never do) – I searched high and low before I found what I wanted.  I definitely bookmarked a few favorites that I knew I’d like to make later, including several with more detail – nice cabling or other patterns – but for this one I found myself craving simple lines, a go-to cardigan that achieved “fashionable” as opposed to “frumpy”, as is often the concern with cardigans.  On the other hand, I wanted to actually be able to wear this puppy regularly, like to pull on at work when I’m chilly, so I didn’t want to land at too high-fashion.  If it turned out that noteworthy, people would start saying, “Is it just me, or does she wear that same sweater every day?”.  I needed it to be classic-looking, and easily blendable with the varying color palette of different outfits.

You with me on this?

Before I even began searching for the perfect cardigan pattern, I admit I had my mind already set on the color.  I went to the black end of the spectrum and chose a dark charcoal gray (a.k.a. a shade of black).  Not surprising, if I give you a little history.  Black is a former flame of mine, the kind that still gives me butterflies when I think about those heady days.  My time living in New York and London left me with quite a penchant for wearing all black, all the time, a practice I thoroughly enjoyed and didn’t trouble to deny it.  I’d still be in that camp if it weren’t for:

  1. My family telling me to lighten up already with the black. Enoughget some color in that wardrobe, sister.
  2. Everyone in my new West Coast workplace telling me I was too “East Coast”.  Loosen up, you’re scaring the natives with that look.

No matter what they say, I really like the power suits and French twists that were frequently associated with the all-black attire, but alas, I have attempted to ease up on all accounts.  I really try to save the black for my now infrequent nights out on the town, when I really must be allowed to feel city-fabulous.  I’ve also invested in two pairs of (long length) khaki cords that I occasionally wear on Fridays (impressive, right?); and, I’ve actually gone to job interviews with my hair down (gasp!) instead of tied up into a formal twist.  Hey, it’s progress.

But I digress!  The point is – I do make an effort to pull in more color to my repertoire, and knitting’s a big part of that, so it’s a good thing I’m addicted to it.  True – but actually, the point is this:  although I do make that effort, it didn’t extend to this project.  Right.

I landed on the Patons pattern Long Fitted Cardigan from the SWS pattern book, “The Look”.  It’s kind of an obscure pattern; I don’t know how I Googled my way to it.  I saw the cover picture and knew that was the one, so I picked the pattern booklet up on eBay.  I really liked the long straight lines and no-nonsense yet sexy appeal.  Largely stockinette, but that contributed to my classic, not-too-fussy goal.  I also liked the bling/accessories the model was wearing, so maybe, sadly, I was swayed by that as well.

I chose Dale of Norway (Dalegarn) Free Style as the yarn for this project.  Don’t ask me why, as this was another obscure choice – I think I was being super-conservative with the gauge on substituting exactly, and this was a spot-on match for SWS.  I booted the SWS yarn as suggested for a couple of reasons.  The online reviews seemed positive and it was very affordable, but in the end I was focused on a) not using toocheap a yarn for a project I would spend a lot of time on and hope to wear quite a lot, b) sticking with a superwash wool for the supposed durability (although now that it’s done, I can’t imagine ever putting my baby in the washer).

Plus, it didn’t come in black.  

Although I liked the look of the pattern with the variegated color of several of the SWS colorways, I wanted to avoid ending up with Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat, which on a tall bird like me can be a bit hard to pull off.

That said – VERY straightforward pattern and piecing.  I liked the yarn surprisingly well, and although I’ve been wearing it frequently for well over a year now, it’s held up very well (few pills of course, but a couple of sweater shavings have kept it in good condition).  I avoided selecting too soft of a yarn in order to achieve this durability, and I’m pleased with the results.  It’s wonderfully warm, as wool tends to be, and holds its shape quite well.  It’s a tad scratchy, but I’m always wearing something under it.  Call me crazy, but I like the tiny amount of scratchy – feels suitably authentic in the way a wooly jumper should.  I know…I’m weird.

Overall, I’m delighted with what my little hands turned out.  I’ve kept the pattern readily accessible (as opposed to lost amongst my mostly scattered and unorganized other patterns and books and yarn and needles – save me, Ravelry) in case I get a wild hair to make one in the future of the Technicolor Dreamcoat variety.

Kidding. 

If I make another one, it’ll definitely be in another shade of black.  ;)