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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Woo-hoo, off the needles!  As of two days ago, technically speaking, but I needed to seam and block before my über-high-fashion photo shoot.  Blocking didn’t change much in terms of the fit, which overall I’m happy with, but it did even out the stitches a bit.


Ta-da!

So – I like Airy.  She’s easy breezy to look at, yet surprisingly warm – thanks to the mohair – given that it’s a lacy summery top.  As for completing the look, I need to find/buy another white camisole or sleeveless tank.  Couldn’t find the one I know I have that’s hiding from me, so I went with a scoop tee for these shots.  I’m sure I’ll experiment with other undergarments for this, but to show you, I wanted to stick with basic white.

Pattern: Airy Wrap-Around Lace Sweater from Fitted Knits, designed by Stefanie Japel
Size:  The one in the middle of the five
Yarn: Almost 5 balls of Lane Cervinia Softer in shade #3331 (light lavender), 50/50 mohair/acrylic
Needles: size 11 circular
Time to knit: about six weeks of heavily-divided attention
Modifications: Longer torso and sleeves (2 added inches each), shorter tie-flaps (about 10 inches each)

As you’ll note from my Ravelry project notes, I used the yarn prescribed by Stefanie – Lane Cervinia Softer – down to the color (I know, I know, very unoriginal thinking, but what can I say – I liked what I saw in the photo).  Yarn-wise, the Italian blend gets a thumbs-up:  easy to work with, nice drape, nice feel (in spite of the acrylic component).  I’ve seen a few knitters question what to substitute if you’re not into sheddy mohair (I say no biggie with such a light color – I just won’t wear black on the bottom).  Tough to say, since I’m not an expert on all things lacy, but I wouldn’t be quick to approach a substitution on this one.  It seems critical not to end up too heavy on the weight.  Also, with a size 11 needle (which I did achieve gauge with as written in the pattern), you don’t want to go too lightweight with the fiber holding together the larger lace stitches – it’s not that they’re that complex, but it’s that you don’t want the fragile-looking stitching to actually become fra-gee-lay  (um, yeah…being a big movie-line-quoter, I almost always think – or say – “fra-GEE-lay” when I write or say “fragile” – I can’t help it.  It comes from A Christmas Story, when the dad won a “major prize” and gets all excited about the fantastically still-unknown, full-of-possibilities contents of the large wooden crate marked “FRAGILE” that arrives on his doorstep: “Look at that, it says fra-GEE-lay…must be Italian!”).


From the left: sleeve cabling,
tie-wrap end (spread out),
tie end curled up

Anyhoo, back to Airy.  In the way of putting this puppy on and actually wearing it (I know it’s not really difficult – just wrap the ties around and then – you guessed it – tie them), there are a few things you might want to think about in advance.  As I’ve already mentioned, I doubt you’ll want to make the ties as long as they are written to be in the pattern.  Luckily my waist circumference must be in the same ballpark as others who’ve come before me who have made this suggestion.  I stopped at 42″ on the first flap until I caught up the other flap to the same length, then ultimately found that I needed another 2″ or so (another 6 rows of stockinette following the lace stitch where I stopped), given that the decrease rows that form the pretty detail on the end of the ties would add probably another 6 inches.

You should think about how tight you’re going to wrap yourself up when you’re actually wearing it – and who among us wouldn’t be tempted to crank those ties pretty darn tight to cover up the bulge from that HUGE Mediterranean platter we devoured at lunch?  Also consider that the ties will stretch a bit more once you’ve pulled them taut (even after blocking) – and thank goodness for that, since we’re not going to be able to keep it up with that corset-like attempt we made up above there to hold in the gut.  Even in tying and re-tying the knot to get it to look right (yes, I too was shocked when I didn’t get it picture-perfect the first time), the ties took on another inch or so as the fibers settled into their designated places in the wrap. 

In a nutshell, proceed with caution unless you want to swear while ripping back inches of knitting.  You should be prepared to lose at least 6″ off the ties as written. 


Front of sweater
The tie on the right is in its
natural state – all curled up

Back of sweater
Sure the lower-back cabling
gets covered up…but isn’t
it fun to know it’s there?

The tie-wraps are hard to visualize until you’ve actually knitted them (or seen more detailed photos than the pattern book provides – like, say, these photos here!).  The dimensions diagram in the book doesn’t show the flaps, but they are in fact long extensions of the right and left front.  When I first read the pattern it seemed like they should be narrowing sooner than they do in order to actually become “ties”, but it ends up making sense – ultimately they curl in lengthwise toward the end of the flap, which makes them look skinnier.  Around the back it’s nice to have substantial flaps to wrap around so that the cabled bottom edge is nicely tucked under and less likely to end up unevenly hanging out below (or even partially above) the wrap-around part.  I actually tucked in the bottom edge of the back cable when I was wearing it so that it was nice and smooth across the whole back.  Others on the Fitted Knits KAL on Ravelry made other modifications or wore the ties slightly differently so that the cabling detail is more visible; some didn’t bother doing the cable detail on the back at all.  Different strokes.

The only modification I made other than to shorten the oft-mentioned ties was to lengthen the torso and sleeves (extra 2 inches each).  The added length in the torso required picking up another 4 stitches at the start each front flap.  I added 2 stitches to each end of the row throughout the knitting of the flaps; if I’d thought about it more I may have added the 4 stitches evenly in-between the lace stitches…but you know what?  It wouldn’t have made a difference.  Those little flappies start to roll up at the edges (by design) and the lacy yarn-overs just blend into the over ambience of the ties.  The extra four stitches meant I needed to add four more decrease rows at the tie-ends in order to land on the 21 stitches at bind-off; I divided the extra decreases evenly and did 2 in each set of the garter stitch repeat before the row of yarn-overs.  Easy peasy.

Even though I did try this on all along the way and it seemed the extra inches were needed (as I would usually expect), in the end I don’t think I needed to add any length.  The sleeves hit me a little lower than they do on the model in Fitted Knits, but so it goes.

Seaming the sleeves took about 2 minutes – very easy.  I saw someone dreading it on a Ravelry forum (“What?  Stefanie’s making me seam something?”) – but this tiny little lightweight, big-stitch inseam is about as simple as it gets where stitching seams is concerned.


Checking out my own bum

Thanks to Sissy B for the hand-me-up pair of khaki shorts for my rear-shot on the right.  I’ve been frightened of shorts for several years now – I like to say it’s because I’ve refined my sense of style: “Europeans don’t wear shorts, you know” – but mostly it’s because I’ve become frightened of my thighs.  My sis gifted these during her recent visit (and if I’m not mistaken, they were gifted to her at some point a while ago by Wee C, our youngest sis); she’s moved on to another style, so she shared the love.  These have been all the way up the sister food chain, and will now be gracing my booty, as long as I can rev up the courage to wear them.  Let’s face it:  in California people would wear these to work – say it with me, oy – so although I will never ever bend on that one, I could probably give them a spin in public.  I mean come on, the people at the grocery can handle these tree trunks.  My Airy Wrap will take my mind off my upper-leg-paranoia –  I’ll glide along feeling fabulous in mohair, just as I’d imagined the day I cast this on.

Why is it July already?  Not that there’s anything wrong with July – it’s all just happened so fast.

My sister and her girls are with me this week and I couldn’t be happier.  It’s heaven to be with them so I’ve taken time off to bask in it. My almost-three niece wants me to make her a sweater, so I’ve got toddler patterns on the brain.  She is waffling between “something purple” and “something red”, and “maybe…something…with short sleeves”.  Makes sense since it’s a touch warm outside, and who wants to be all bundled up for summer?  I picked up Adorable Knits for Tots by Zoë Mellor, without much research other than a quick leaf-through at Michael’s while we were picking up craft projects for the kids.  Jennifer at http://loopyknitter.wordpress.com pointed me in the right direction to find the errata (which DebbieKnitter went through quite a bit to find) – just in case I end up making something from this book.

My niece’s request for purple may be inspired by my continued sneaky attempts to work on my Airy Wrap-Around Sweater from Stefanie Japel’s Fitted Knits.  It’s coming along – it would be faster if I could tear myself away from the aforementioned toddler pattern search in the time I have free during nap time.  I like it – the floatiness of the lacy stitching is still a novel drapey feel for me while I’m knitting, so it’s fun.

Just about done with the back so I can move on to the sleeves, which I’m thinking about making a bit longer than 3/4 length per the pattern.  I lengthened the torso of the back by a couple of inches; instead of doing only 16 rows of stockinette repeat before starting the cabling, I added an extra 8 rows.

One of the other patterns I found on Ravelry last week that I’ve been dreaming about since is the Sheer Poncho by Amy Arifin, who has kindly included this beautiful pattern in the free designs section of her cool website.  I was searching for cowl neck patterns (I developed a hankering for one after seeing a funky pink-striped sweater on Alicia Keys in her “Teenage Love Affair” video…I know, how did I stumble into hip? An MTV indulgence is rare but it does happen!) and spotted a photo of Amy’s poncho. 

Then I saw the alternative ways to wear it and became enamored with the fabulousness.  What fun!  This one is headed for my queue.

I hear the stirrings of my youngest niece emerging from nap time…auntie to the rescue.  Back soon!