Some New Mittens for Fall

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After I finished my summer fair knitting, I had nearly a whole ball of left-over Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love yarn in a pretty, ruby red color left just sitting on the table next to my favorite chair.  For a commercially produced yarn, I actually really like the way it looks and feels.

I have a mini-stash of Debbie Stoller (of Stitch N’ Bitch fame) yarns, including Washable Ewe, Alpaca Love and Bamboo Ewe.  I tend to pick these up when odd balls go on clearance at the big chain craft stores in the area.  Since this one was the only ball of this yarn that I had, I wanted to make something nice for myself with it, both to have the satisfaction of using up all of the yarn, and to have something made from it close to me so that I could continue to enjoy it.

  I decided to make myself a new pair of fingerless mitts for my early morning drives into work.  It is always chilly in the Midwest in the early mornings during fall, and my hands are often cold when I’m driving.  I have an old, go-to pair that someone from knitting group made for me several years ago, but they are well-worn, and thought I could use new ones to add to the mix.

I wanted something simple, so after perusing patterns on Ravelry, I decided on the Peekaboo Mitts pattern as a template.  I wouldn’t have enough yarn to make the pattern as written, so I made a smaller version, and I added a little heart motif to the back of each hand by strategically placing purl stitches within the stockinette stitch.

 

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Top and bottom surface of each mitt.

I more or less just improvised the placement of the little heart motif, and I thought it turned out well.

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As you can see, I often block my mitts on the ankle area of some sock blockers.  The ones used here are a set from my vintage collection.  When they are not in use, they are displayed on the wall of my office at home.

So much basil in my garden this year!

So much basil in my garden this year!

I’ve actually gotten some use out of these mitts already this season.

Nearly fall and my tomatoes are still green...

Nearly fall and my tomatoes are still green…

I knit these on size 8, double pointed needles.  I decreased a few cast-on stitches to make the mitts narrower (since I have small hands and I wanted the mitts to be snug). 

I have also since finished my Skyp socks, and cast on (and nearly finished as of this post) a new, fall hat.  Details are coming soon…

~Happy knitting!

 

Knitting Socks that Last

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It’s been a crazy week, and I’m happy to get back to action on my current work in progress – my Skyp Socks. 

By last weekend, I had knit one sock from the cuff all of the way down to the start of the toe, and began the foot on the other.  As mentioned in a previous post, I’m trying a new approach (just for the heck of it) by knitting each sock simultaneously on DPNs.  When I finish a component of one sock, I pick up the other and knit that one to match, and so on. 

I took this photo last week, when I had achieved the cuff and leg for each of the two socks:

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As you can see, I’m using my trusty Kollage Square needles.  Since I only have one set of them in size 1 (keeping enough sets of all of these needles gets pricey when you’re a knitting junkie like me), I held stitches on the resting sock with bamboo needles, and just switched them out when I was ready to knit on the next sock. 

As mentioned before, I love the color of this yarn, and hey, it’s just in time for fall!  I LOVE the fall, and even on the day I took these photos, when it was above 80 degrees outside, I could feel that fall was in the air.  I can’t even explain it.  I just know it when I feel it.  And to prove that I’m not just imagining it, I snapped a quick pic of my yard:

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I am lucky enough to live under what I think is a spectacular canopy of trees.  Just look at all of those leaves on the ground!  That happened in a matter of about 48 hours.  The trees knew it wanted to be fall outside too, even in the midst of the hot and humid weather.

So lovely, hand dyed merino yarn in fall colors is the perfect thing for right now!  My only worry is that the yarn is not officially a ‘sock yarn’ in that it has no nylon or supportive fiber component to help it last with use.  The book that I have been reading, Knit Socks by Betsy Lee McCarthy, has great content on considerations for knitting socks that will hold up to regular wear.  In a nutshell, wool that is blended with nylon, bamboo, mohair, silk or Tencel will hold up for much longer than plain fingering weight wool.  (Tencel is a tough, biodegradable fiber made from wood pulp.)  She mentions mohair more than once for this purpose, and suggests fingering weight wool with both added nylon and mohair as a great choice for socks that will last.

She also makes an interesting case for tightening up your gauge.  Like really tightening it up.  Like going down four needle sizes from the size recommended by the yarn’s manufacturer wherever possible.  Four needle sizes!  That’s a concept that is new to me, and in her book Betsy admits that many people raise an eyebrow when she suggests it, but she claims to have a system for getting good, long wear out of her hand knit socks and that is part of it.

Of course, I read this AFTER I purchased this yarn (which is light fingering weight merino wool) and started my socks.  I can tell you that this yarn (did I mention that I’m in love with this yarn?), is not going to stand up to lots of wear according to Betsy’s criteria.  From the book, I learned that there is compromise that needs to be made when choosing sock yarn for socks that one really means to wear, between beautiful (sometimes one of a kind) yarn that will make amazing LOOKING socks, and lovely yarns that will make amazing socks that not only look good, but will also not wear out after several weeks in a shoe. 

When I bought this yarn, I was all about amazing LOOKING socks, and the happiness I get out of working with gorgeous yarn that I love.  I did end up putting a heel in each sock in a brown wool/nylon blend that I hope will help to extend the life of this pair.  Another option for these socks would be to hold nylon thread double with my yarn for at least the heel and toe portions of the sock to help toughen the fabric in those areas.

Here is a closer look at the cute ribs that are achieved by the Skyp pattern.  It’s like a wide rib with a decorative little braid running down the center of it.  So cute!

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The stitches will even out a little more after blocking.  And I have to say that the colors in this yarn are so much better in person.

These socks have been a little slower going than I was expecting.  Last weekend, with the onset of cooler, fall weather, I wanted to knit up a quick pair of fingerless mitts for my early drives in to work.  At that hour, it is chilly outside, and my hands get cold holding the steering wheel.  So I took a little break from these socks to do that, and then the following week was a bit of a marathon, so I had nearly no time to work on them in the evenings either.

Yesterday, I drove down to Purdue University for a conference I was attending, and I initially planned to bring these socks along.  I thought I might knit on them during any down time.  I changed my mind at the last minute, suspecting that I would be too busy to really have any real knitting opportunities.  (I was wrong, and wished I had brought them on at least two occasions during the day.)

Since I was in the town of West Lafayette, IN, I was also hoping to make it over to River Knits, which is the local yarn shop out there.  Unfortunately, the shop was closed by the time the conference was over, and I didn’t get to visit the yarn.

I’m looking forward to relaxing a little this weekend, and knitting on my socks.  Maybe I’ll even finish them, but I a little part of me wants to put them down again to knit up some quick mittens.  We’ll see what happens…

 

~Happy (lasting sock) knitting!

 

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Lake County Fair 2014 – Part 2

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Since my last post was mostly about my entries in this year’s Lake County Fair, I wanted to run a second post and show you some of my favorite things on display in the Arts building that were entered by other people.  The quilts are always amazing to see.  My two favorites happened to have the same subject matter:  cats.

I love the colors in this one:

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I would totally display it in my house.

 

I love the whimsy of this one:

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Speaking of cats, I also admired this bag that was entered in the sewing division:

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This was one of my favorite baby blanket entries:

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I love to see the knit and crochet pot holders.  The entries this year were so cute!!!  Unfortunately they weren’t displayed very well, so it was tough to get good photos:

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The first place winner is all of the way on the bottom right of the photo above.  Only a corner of it can be seen, but it is a really nicely done sunflower and I love it.  Next to it, partly covered by that red ribbon, is a mug of hot cocoa.  I think the pom-pom marshmallows is such a cute idea. 

 

This winter bird was one of my favorites:

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I’m pretty sure it was cross stitch.  It took a second place ribbon.

 

Here was a crocheted afghan with little dogs on it:

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I also love the purple and green one hanging to the left of it.  It reminds me of cabbages growing in a garden.

 

This knit baby sweater and hat was really well done.  It took first place:

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And here’s a children’s sweater with little sheep on it that earned a second place ribbon:

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Aside from the crafts, I also enjoy seeing the antiques on display at the fair.  They are shown on the third floor of the arts building, so I always walk through to see what people have entered.  I keep saying that one of these years I will enter some of my antique sock stretcher/dryer collection.  One of these years…

Since I obviously enjoy fairs and ribbons, I thought it was so fun that some people entered their antique Lake County Fair ribbons:

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How neat to see these old ribbons from years passed.  These are from 1958, and this person won a ribbon for his/her ribbon collection!

 

This person had so many ribbons that he/she had a flag or a banner made out of them (seen here folded up in the display case):

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What a neat idea!

As much as I enjoyed this year’s fairs, I am glad that the fair season has come to a close.  I am always so tired and “all faired out” by the end of August.  I’m looking forward to next year’s fairs (and hopefully next year I’ll be a bit more prepared than I was this year), but now I’m ready for pumpkins and cider and fall leaves. 

~Happy knitting!

Lake County Fair 2014 – Part 1

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Ok, I’m all set and ready to post about the Lake County Fair this year!  Here it goes!

The fair was hopping again this year.  I could not believe how many people were present on exhibitor’s night!  It felt like more than usual as we all packed into the Arts building to see if we had won. I was literally shoulder to shoulder with other participants for most of the evening.

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As always, there were so many wonderful crafts on display.  Quilts and afghans lined all of the walls, and every display case was packed.

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A sample of the knit and crocheted toys on display.

A sample of the knit and crocheted toys on display.

 

Some of the crocheted shawls.

Some of the crocheted shawls.

 

I had seven entries in the fair this year, and I ribboned in four.  My Radiating Star Blanket, my On The Road Shawl, and my Linen Stitch Scarf did not place.

There were SO MANY knit shawl entries this year, and they were all so great!  Go knitters!  Clearly, I need to amp up my game for next year if I plan to enter a shawl.

So many knit shawls!

So many knit shawls!  This is only a sampling of the competition.  I wish they were displayed open so that all of the detail could be appreciated.

I did well in hats this year. 

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Both my crochet and knit hats can be seen in the case behind me: crochet hat on the stand to the left and knit hat in the front right.

I earned a first place (blue) ribbon in a rather large category of knit hats.

My lace, knit Heart Hat earned a first place ribbon and my Broken Seed Stitch Socks earned third.

My lace, knit Heart Hat earned a first place ribbon and my Broken Seed Stitch Socks earned third.

 

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My only crochet entry this year was this Tapestry Crochet Heart Hat, and it took second place in another rather large category.  I was pleased!

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I earned a third place ribbon in socks.  I entered my Broken Seed Stitch Socks that I knit in cotton/bamboo.

The winners!

The winners!  My entry is on the far left (white ribbon).

More beautiful sock entries.

More beautiful sock entries.

My Fisherman’s mittens took second place (red ribbon) to a pair of white, lace gloves.

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My entry can be seen on the right of the photo. The white gloves that took first place also won the Sweepstakes Rosette for the whole knitting division (seen on the left of the photo).

 

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Knit and crochet glove and mitten entries.

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As always, I had a great time this year.  Stay tuned for yet another post about more great crafts on exhibit at the fair.  There were so many wonderful things!

~Happy crafting!

 

The Making of Decisions & The Making of Socks

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I’ve been contemplating the best way to post about this year’s Lake County Fair.  It’s already over a month behind me, and I don’t want to end up posting about it a year later like I did with last year’s post.  The challenge is that I generally like to post about the making of my projects, but many of the items I entered this year were made and entered before I could get any photos and post about them.  So do I post about the fair, and then write about how I made the projects later, or do I wait until I can post about each project’s creation individually, and then post about the fair?

You might have noticed from the conveyor line of posts in the last few weeks that I have mostly been trying to do the latter:  show you all of the projects I made (there’s a ton to catch up on, but we’re almost there) so that I can post about the fair and show you how I did. 

So the fair post (well, probably posts actually….I took lots of photos this year) is coming soon.  Some time well before August 2015 – I swear!

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Hand knits being unpacked all over my easy chair.

This past weekend was a three day weekend from work for me (due to Monday being Labor Day), so on Saturday morning I finally had a chance to go through my fair stuff to organize everything and get some photos. 

It is just my general personality to be a total stress-case, but lately I have noticed that I am beginning to enjoy my Saturday mornings a little bit.  Saturday morning is the perfect time, being right at the end of the previous work week, but still as far away as possible from the next one that my brain will allow me to let down my guard the teeniest bit so that I can feel something resembling a state of being relaxed.  It’s brief and it’s fleeting, but that almost makes it seem sweeter, and anyway, I’ll take what I can get.

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So Saturday morning I had my coffee, and my yarn, and my ribbons and my knits and I just went with it.  Half of the living room looked like the Arts building at the fair exploded. 

In a previous post, I mentioned that I won eight ribbons at the more recent Will County Fair.  Well this year at Lake County, I won four:

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Blue ribbons are hard to come by at the Lake County Fair, so I am always extra happy to win one.  The ribbons never have the year on them (why IS that?) so I generally write the year, and which project the ribbon was awarded to on the backs of them so that years (weeks?) from now, I can remember.

In other news, I continued work on the newest project to hit my needles:

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This Simple Skyp Socks pattern is one of the most popular free sock patterns on Ravelry at the moment, so I thought I should get in on the action.  The pattern is actually really cute and clever. 

I just love the colorway of this yarn I chose from Ellen’s 1/2 Pint Farm but holy cow, I didn’t notice how fine the weight of this yarn is until I started making my socks!  It is a really light fingering weight – almost approaching lace weight.  I ended up knitting my socks with size 0, bamboo, double points but have since switched over to my beloved Kollage Square double points in size 1 because I was having pain in my hands and fingers.  Bamboo needles in size 0 tend to bend, and the constant fiddling of them into position was taxing my hands.

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I’ve been enjoying this book by Betsy Lee McCarthy, and recently read through the section on all of the options available for approaching the knitting of socks:  use of double points, one circular needle, two circular needles, magic loop etc… 

I am an old school purist when it comes to knitting my socks:  I’m pretty sure I’ll always be a double point girl.  I found it interesting that in the book Betsy suggests knitting both socks at the same time on side-by-side DPNs in order to keep the socks identical and to avoid the “second sock syndrome”.  I have considered doing this before, but never committed to it.  I was inspired enough by Betsy’s argument that I actually decided to knit my Skyps on side by side DPNs.

At this point, I am all of the way through the cuff and leg on sock one, and I am now about 1/3 of the way through the cuff and leg on sock number two.  Then I’ll go back and do the heel of the first, and then the heel of the second sock.  Then gusset, then instep, foot and toe until both socks are complete.  It might be nice to actually finish both socks at roughly the same time.  It will definitely be a different feeling.  I guess I’ll see if it catches on with me.

~Happy knitting!

FO: Fisherman’s Mittens

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I mentioned in a previous post that my sister requested Angora mittens for her birthday this past July.  I have told the story before of her beloved, Angora, childhood mittens (read about it HERE).  Even though I knit her what I thought was a nice homage to those mittens in some lavender/gray alpaca yarn a few years back, she has still been thinking about those childhood mittens, and asked again for a pair in Angora.

I was surprised that it was as tough as it was to get Angora yarn.  I eventually found some in the form of Kollage Yarns Scrumptious, which is 70% Angora and 30% silk.  I believe the yarn is no longer being made, so it was on closeout at Web’s online.  Not only did I get a good deal, but my sister was able to choose her color.  She likes jewel tones (it seems), and she picked out the colorway Key Lime, which is actually a really deep hunter green with maybe a touch of greyish blue in it.

The yarn is listed as worsted weight, but let me tell you that it is not.  I would describe it as a light sport weight at best, so I needed to find a pattern with some texture to thicken up the mittens. 

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I really dislike knitting the same pattern twice.  (It’s a conquest thing.  Once I’ve conquered a pattern, I’m done.)  This meant I needed to find a new pattern that I wanted to make, that would work with the yarn.  I had a really hard time doing that, but eventually settled on this pattern:  Mittens for the Fisherman by Erica Lueder.  (It’s free, people!!!)

If you are a Ravelry member, here is the link to the pattern there:  Mittens for the Fisherman pattern on Ravelry.

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The pattern is both written and charted, and each mitten is knit identically (there is no official front or back side of each mitten).  I adjusted the pattern a bit for my sister’s small hands, and also for the light weight of the yarn.  I shortened the thumb gusset but had to lengthen the hand by adding another pattern repeat of squares/boxes.

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My sister was kind enough to let me enter the mittens into the fairs this summer since she wouldn’t be needing them until after August.  They ribboned twice:  second place in one fair and third place in another.  So now, as she says, she has award-winning birthday mittens.

 

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~Happy knitting!

 

 

Second Scrollwork

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Now that I’ve got all of my projects back from the county fairs, I can show you my second attempt at Scrollwork.  If you recall, I knit up the first version using Sincere Sheep Equity Sport, and the hat turned out really cute, but smallish and thinner than I had expected.  You can read about it HERE.

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My first attempt at the Scrollwork hat pattern from Brooklyn Tweed.

 

I decided to give the pattern another shot, and this time I used some Plymouth Tweed yarn (which is Aran weight), that I had in my stash.  The colorway is Ecru.  This time I used size 7 needles instead of the size 6’s that I used on the first version.

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Using stitch markers to mark off the pattern repeats helped the project go faster, but did get a little tricky on the rows where the end of round marker must be moved.

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My new ChiaGoo stitch markers.

 

I do like my second version of the hat, but not necessarily better than the first one.  This one is definitely more functional as a warm winter hat, and would be more likely to fit the average person’s head.

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The stitch definition on each hat is different (in a good way) which I find really neat.  Neither looks as nice (in my opinion) as the apparent stitch definition achieved by using the recommended yarn for the pattern which is Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.  I linked to the pattern in my previous post, but here it is again, complete with photos of the hat done in the suggested yarn for comparison, if you are interested:  Scrollwork Hat from Brooklyn Tweed (designer Irina Dmitrieva)When you purchase the pattern, you actually get instructions for the hat as well as a coordinating cowl.

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As mentioned in a previous post, this hat actually won second place in knit hats at the Will County (IL) Fair this year:

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~Happy cabling!

 

 

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