Friday, 31 July 2015

Finished object file: Iron Man Mitts Mark 2

I finished this little knit a while back and they have been a hit so I thought I should take a moment to write up a post about them.

Earlier this year when my boy asked for the toy Iron Man gloves I rolled my eyes and said, "I can knit you some cool Iron Man mitts just like the ones I did for R's birthday present last year." Sir S still insisted on the toy gloves but that's one I'll leave for the grandparents to get him for Christmas.

I found this cute free pattern designed by Irene McCormick last year when I was looking for something quick to knit up for my friend's Avengers obsessed boy. They are designed to be knit flat and then seamed but it was a no brainer to modify it into a in the round pattern. I didn't change a thing with the pattern's numbers and simply joined the stitches in the round after casting on. Here's a link to my Ravelry notes if you're interested in the details of this project.

When it came to making the thumb hole this time I tried an adapted YO K2Tog buttonhole by doing two YOs and then when I came round again on the next round I knit these two YOs as two new stitches. However, I'm not 100% happy with it because it is still a little tight for my little guy's thumbs. Since making these mitts I have listened to Pam Allen and Hannah Fettig's podcast episode discussing buttonholes and bands. I like the sound of Pam Allen's favourite buttonhole that is a double YO hole that is knit over three rows. It has the same construction idea that I had with my double YO attempt but is better designed and structured, just goes to show why she's an owner of yarn company and an experienced designer and I'm just a humble knit enthusiast. Pam's instructions for this buttonhole from the page is:
Pam's Favorite Buttonhole: double yo
work row 1 (RS) to 2 stitches before the buttonhole stitch.
make a double yarn over by bringing the yarn through the needles to the front, then over the RH needle to the back, then to the front between the needles again.
knit the next 2 stitches together, knit to the end of the row.
work row 2 to the yarn over, purl into the yarn over, letting the second wrap drop from the left needle, work to the end of the row.
work row 3 to the stitch above the buttonhole, knit into the hole (not the stitch above) and carry on.
-Pam Allen             

These mitts have been a hit for the Sir S. He hasn't complained about the yarn which is Cleckheaton's Australian Superfine Merino 8ply (DK) and Filatura Di Crosa's Zara line. Sir S definitely needs the supersoft hypoallergenic yarns. This is the second accessory that I have made him with the superfine merino and they are the pieces that I get no complaints about. 

Overall, this is a super easy and super quick knit for the little kids in your life who like a bit of superhero fun while keeping their hands warm.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Finished object file: Canopy Shawl | Skein Merino Silk Sport

It is such a joy to finish a project that is a beautiful pattern knit with gorgeous yarn and a bonus when it is a KAL project that has been completed within the deadline. The project that I am gushing over is the Canopy Shawl knit in Skein yarn Merino Silk Sport.

When Kristen, the owner and dyer of the beautiful Skein yarn company announced on her podcast that she was going to host a shawls KAL I was so excited to join in. I was keen to knit another shawl for myself and I had two skeins of Kristen's Merino Silk Sport in Poppy colourway that I picked up last year at Sunspun's Spring sale. 

I have knit with this blend before in a different colourway and there are so many reasons why I keep returning to this yarn. The 50/50 Merino Silk blend is so soft and it has a delightful drape. I think it drapes so well that I'm probably able to get away with not blocking the shawl. The colour is fabulous; I love how it is very subtly variegated and there are tones of red, purple and even a bit of a bluey grey.

I had been eyeing off Melody Hoffmann's Canopy design for a few weeks and decided that the yarn and the pattern were going to be the perfect pairing for this KAL. Actually all of Melody's mandarine's blog is beautiful. I have a serious crush on her designs and love the photos and anecdotes from her life. I also highly recommend her podcast because she is so delightful to watch and listen to.

The pattern is equally as beautiful as the yarn that I used. It is a triangle shaped shawl with alternating panels of stockinette and a lace pattern. The lace pattern taught me a couple of new stitches which were simple techniques that created a very nice visual touch. The stitches I learnt were how to make a right and left twist to create a pyramid shaped motif along the lace panel. So easy but you do need to concentrate just enough to remember to always maintain two stitches when knitting the twists because it is not a decrease stitch technique. There were a few times where I must have forgotten and got to the next lace row and found that my stitches didn't add up right so I fudged it a bit and picked up stitches to "correct" the stitch count. It's all lace and an extra hole here or there isn't really that noticeable, so I tell myself.

I knit an extra set of lace and stockinette panels because I had extra yardage available from the two skeins of Skein yarn and finished with only a few metres to spare, so I'm doubly happy with that result. A big tick for the stash busting challenge.

I can't wait to wear this shawl out in the sunshine. I think with the silk content in the yarn all the colours of the variegation will not truly shine until it is seen in proper light. I think this is going to be my perfect Spring shawl because it is lightweight and has just the right amount of warmth for a mild Spring day.  With that being said, I'm still going to wear it today when I go to kinder pickup because the sun is shining and I want to enjoy it immediately.

You can read my Ravelry notes here if you're interested.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Finished object file: Mini Moto Vest | Cascade Ecological Wool

A few months ago I knit a Moto vest* for myself as part of a Woolful KAL and I love it so much. I wear it pretty much everyday as I find it perfect for layering. I love it so much that I decided to make a mini version for Miss L. 

I finished this project a few weeks ago but have been so busy that I haven't had a moment to take some proper photos of Miss L wearing it but wearing it she has been and a lot too. We have even received many comments about it and some people have even noticed that we are wearing matching vests.

I knit the Mini Moto with some left over Cascade Ecological Wool. This yarn is a bulky weight Peruvian wool that has minimal processing and is naturally coloured grey. It is a beautifully squishy yarn that has a lot of warmth in it. I am not certain but I suspect that it is a woollen spun yarn.

I cast on 46 stitches on 6.5mm needles to give a width of 6.5" wide. I knit the same 2X2 rib pattern as I did for my adult version until the scarf part was 36" long and made the back 8" wide by picking up 30 stitches from the middle of the back at a rate of 3/4 rows. You can find my Ravelry project notes here.

When I first put it on her I found the collar a bit too bulky around Miss L's petite little neck and it didn't quite sit well on her shoulders. It was not staying on too well on it's own so I grabbed a large safety pin stitch holder and pinned the front together. This gives it a quaint little touch that is reminiscent of that style of tartan skirt that used to be pinned together by a large safety pin. I remember wearing one of those skirts when I was little and love the retro look of it.

It is a perfect little vest to throw on Miss L when it's a bit chilly in the morning or when we are about to leave the house to pop over to church. I just know that we will get plenty of wear out of it and could make another one in the future because it is such a handy piece to have in the wardrobe.

*You can read about the adult Moto Vest from this post here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

My humble thoughts on superwash wool

My sheepy friends from Bendi

Our lives are privileged enough to be able to enjoy the modern conveniences of washing machines and dryers and it only makes sense that we want our clothing to actually be washed in those machines. Maybe it is wool and other luxury fibres such as silk and cashmere's reputation for being high maintenance that makes people shirk away from buying and wearing everyday garments made of these fibres. Maybe an industry response to this was to make wool more convenient and hence developing a process that will allow it to be washed in a machine and not come out as a shrunken felted mess. Or maybe scientists just need to show how clever they are and they worked out how to "superwash" wool and everyone thinks it's the best thing since sliced bread. Well, I respect that those scientist are very clever but now that I know what is actually done to the woollen fibres to make it machine washable I am reconsidering my interest in superwash wool.

I'm not an expert but my basic understanding is that fibre, especially animal fibre is actually made up of lots of scales when you look at it on a microscopic level. When this fibre is agitated rigorously like it is in a washing machine the scales will get all jumbled up and and will mat together and become felt. That's all fine and dandy when you actually want to felt and object but if that's not what you want then you're bound to face the chore of handwashing woollens at some stage of your fibre loving life.

Now again, basic understanding here but when wool is turned into superwash wool it goes through the very unnatural process of being washed with chlorine to strip the fibres of the scales and then the fibre is coated with a plastic polymer so that the fibre is kept 'smooth' and it will not be able to felt when machine washed. 

There are some noticeable pros with superwash wool such as it absorbs dye better and hence it has become a bit of a favourite fibre among the hand dyeing community. I have also mentioned in a past post that I noticed that the superwash garments that I have knit for my kids have pilled less and that I was actually going to use superwash for their clothes in the future - but that claim was made before I learnt about the superwash process. I am not a super conscious eco person so I will not be purging all superwash from my stash never to touch it again. My only aim is to avoid it if I have other options and to challenge myself to discover more yarns that have been exposed to less processing.

I think it was sometime last year that the Swans Island Company released a Ecowash line of yarns to their range. They explain that they use a natural process to turn their organic merino wool into a machine washable yarn. Their technique uses and organic enzyme that will render the yarn washable and prevent it from felting. I am really interested in trying this yarn and hope to make my child garments from this in the future.

There are many reasons why I love wool and one of them is because it is a natural fibre and now that I know a bit about the superwash process I kind of wonder why would we submit this beautiful fibre to such and unnatural process. I handwash all my knits regardless of what type of wool I used to make it with so I don't actually have a good reason to use superwash wool. It is my own personal aim to avoid superwash and I am not trying to be an advocate for anti-superwash sentiment but I thought it was worthwhile explaining myself.

Ashley Yousling's Woolful blog has also got an interesting post about superwashing fibre and she is much more informed that I am on the topic. Check it out here if you want to read more. Also, Ashley's latest podcast episode (29) features Jackie Ottino-Graf from the Swans Island Company and she explains a little about their Ecowash line and discusses it's good points. I really enjoyed listening to the episode and I have a renewed interest in trying their yarn for a knit that I plan to do for Sir S.

I hope I'm not stepping on any toes and offending anyone in the fibre community. This is really just my humble opinion and I respect all who are involved in this industry that enables me to knit with a wonderful fibre.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Bendi 2015

I took my first trip to Bendigo for the Australian Sheep and Wool show this year and I just had a blast. I caught up with some friends and hit the wool craft stalls and found some beautiful yarns that I will enjoy knitting with.

I went into the show with the intention of exploring new yarns from Australian indie dyers and hoped to also find some small flock yarns being sold by the farmers themselves. I also had an interest to take a look at yarn from sheep breeds other than merino. I just feel like the market these days is flooded with merino and mostly superwash merino too, but this year I have had a growing interest in learning about different breeds and I am curious to experience how their fibre will knit up.

I am extremely happy with the haul that I came home with. I found exactly what I was looking for and came home some Polwarth, Shetland, Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) as well as the unavoidable merino and even some superwash too. I'm not totally anti-superwash, I just wish to avoid it if I have other choices, but yesterday some absolutely beautiful colours jumped at me and I had to grab them even though they were a superwash.*

So, what did I buy? Well, I can't write about all of the purchases but here are a few of my favourites.

Tarndie Polwarth DK/8ply in natural undyed silver grey. 
This is my most exciting purchase because I have been eyeing off this yarn for a while now. I want to knit Joji Locatelli's True cardigan and I wanted to make it with yarn that reflected the name of the pattern. I chose the Tarndie Polwarth because it is wool obtained from the farm that developed the Polwarth breed back in the 1880s. According to their information flyer the sheep that they currently have in the flock are the descendants of the original Polwarth sheep and the yarns that they sell are truly "single origin" yarns. The other thing that appeals to me is the undyed nature of the yarn. They have 3 undyed colours - silver grey, brown and black - I think the silver grey will be perfect for the garment I have in mind. I also love how they sell nice big 205g skeins so I estimate that my 5 will be enough to make the True cardigan.

Little Plum Yarns Lush Sock in Sari.
This was actually my first purchase because Little Plum Yarns is a dyer that I have been hearing a lot about from my friend Jenny. I picked up one mini skein (among other things) of Sari coloured Lush Sock which is one of the few superwash merino yarns that I picked up. I bought it because I am hoping to match this yarn with a skein of green Miss Click Clack sock yarn that is short a bit of yardage for Kelly Brooker's My Aunt Doris cardigan for Miss L. I plan to alternate the two skeins and hope that the colours can blend well and just give the cardigan a nice subtle variegated look.

Oyster Yarns Duchess in Secrets at Midnight.
This DK weight beauty is a blend of extra fine merino, silk and silver stellina sparkle (75/20/5). It is so soft and squishy and the sparkle is a nice touch that gives the yarn a bit of extra prettiness. I think the dark blue will be easy to match with other items of clothing and I plan to knit something to gift to our dear friend who put us up for the night in Bendigo.

Dyed by Hand Yarns, Big Blue Stocking Fingering weight Superwash BFL in Purple Sea Urchin.
This colour just jumped at me and I couldn't resist. I bought 2 skeins and also added a skein of Fog Bound (grey) so that I can make a cardigan or sweater with the two colours because another one of my knitting goals is to knit more colourwork patterns. This is the first lot of BFL I've bought and I really notice how the yarn takes on the dye differently to merino. It has a beautiful sheen that is similar to the way silk blends reflect colours but this is a 100% wool yarn.

Jamieson & Smith 100% Shetland Wool from the Shetland Islands.
I bought this from the Purl Box stand where I also picked up the Oyster Yarn and I got it because I am just curious about Shetland wool. The touch of this wool is not soft or squishy, so I like to think of it as a workhorse wool. I can imagine the fisherman wives in the Shetland Islands knitting with Shetland wool hundreds of years ago because their men needed warm, sturdy, water and wind repellent jumpers for daily wear. I love the tradition and history that is embedded in this breed of sheep and their wool. I think a pair of cabled mitts will be best suited to this yarn rather than any accessory that would be sitting against more sensitive skin.

Along with the yarn I did also find the time to pop into the sheep sheds and wander among the animals that grow this most special fibre. I find the sheep a soothing and peaceful creature. How fabulous is it to be a walking squishy ball of wool? I love being clothed in sheep's clothing and I love these creatures that God created to provide us with that precious fibre.

Now I've got some serious knitting time ahead of me, so it's time to pick up the needles.

* I'll explain my thoughts on superwash yarns another day, today I want to just enjoy my Bendi purchases.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Finished object file: Crag hat | Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran

School is back and I'm going to aim to get back into the swing of things. I must confess that I do find the balance between blogging about knitting and actually knitting hard. When on the kinder days I only get a couple of hours completely kid free during Miss L's nap I often choose to knit rather than blog because I have so much knitting I want to get through. However, since I keep starting new projects I don't think that status is going to change any time soon, so today I'm going to keep the needles aside and update the blogosphere about one of my latest finished objects.

After asking my friends and readers to help me choose between the Bartek and Crag hat patterns to make for my husband as an anniversary present (you can read about that here) I went with popular opinion and knit the Crag.

I wanted to use up the charcoal Debbie Bliss Cashmerino from my stash but after making two swatches with the aran (heavy 10ply) weight yarn I was starting to lack confidence in my choice. Using 4mm needles for the main pattern was still slightly off gauge but I didn't want to go any smaller because my hands were finding it uncomfortable knitting such heavy yarn on small needles. I kind of fudged it because I rationalised that if I kept my tension tighter for the actual knit and because the Hubs does have a bit of a big head I think I can get away with it in the end.

For the actual knit I started on 3.25mm needles for the ribbing and used a crochet cast on that my dear friend Jenny (Tatterz on Ravelry) taught me. I was leaving this present to the last minute so I decided to skip the tubular cast on because I just wanted to get onto it rather than fiddle with a third needle size and learning a new technique. 

Once I got going into the main body of the hat it was pretty easy to memorise the pattern and it would have been a really enjoyable knit if it didn't hurt my hands. I found I could only do about one set of the pattern repeat before I needed to rest my hands. 

In the end I didn't finish it in time for our anniversary but I did have it done for our time away in Marysville. The Hubs wore it when we went up Lake Mountain to take the kids tobogganing and he said it was perfectly snug and at times he had to take it off because it made him too hot. All credit for that goes to the beautiful cashmere and merino blend of the yarn. You can't go past good fibre when you want warmth.

My latest lesson that I have learnt after knitting this Brooklyn Tweed design and also the Rosebud hat is that I should substitute with either a light worsted or even a DK weight yarn rather than use aran. I have never used Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter yarn for which both these hats were designed for and I hope one day to get the chance to use it but for the time being I am definitely going to select more carefully when substituting for future BT projects.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Finished object: Castilleja Cowl | Spud & Chloe Sweater

Castilleja Cowl knit in Spud & Chloe Sweater.
It's been school holidays here and I have been busy with the kids every day so far.  I have had little knitting time and the blog has been a bit neglected. But today I've managed to get some rest time out of the kids and so it's blog time.

Throughout June I was working between 4 projects and just casually switching between them depending on what I felt like working on at the moment. I've been plodding through my Maeve Shrug and also cast on at the beginning of the month for the Skein podcast shawl KAL. I had also been slowly working on a mini version of the Moto Vest for my girl and an anniversary present for the husband. Between these projects I was starting to feel a little unmotivated since I wasn't getting anywhere near finishing any of them. 

I love the cosiness of a cowl in winter.
Then my little guy got invited to a kinder friend's birthday party and we only had a week's notice. I don't enjoy taking the kids to the shopping centre these days so I decided to knit the little girl something. I figured a quick gift knit might help me get my knitting mojo back.

Sir S choose some yarn out of my stash and we found an easy (and free) cowl pattern  off Ravelry called the Castilleja Cowl. It calls for a worsted weight yarn and I used some grape coloured Spud & Chloe sweater yarn. The yarn is beautifully soft and squishy with a wool and organic cotton composition. 

Simple details kept this knit interesting.
I knit this up in two days and I'm quite pleased with the results. The cowl design has regular elongated stitches set within reverse stockinette stitch and is bordered by fisherman's rib sections. There was just enough variation in it to keep it an interesting knit. 

The pattern is well written with easy to follow instructions and if a bigger cowl is desired it can be adapted without too much difficulty. The pattern needs a multiple of 6 stitches cast on and a wider cowl can be achieved with more repeats of the pattern.

I hope the birthday girl will enjoy the cowl as the cold weather sets in. I guess even though I had wanted to reevaluate my gift making I can't help myself; making gifts still feels better to me than buying.