November 11, 2018

Speckly Yarn Fillet

Speckly Yarn Fillet

Speckly Yarn Fillet

The previous pair of socks took me three months to finish, and now this one took four, so I haven't exactly been a speed demon with one of the faster projects out there. I mostly didn't use a pattern, but I took some pointers from the Smooth Operator sock pattern for the afterthought heel. The white and speckly yarn is some Qing Fiber Super Sock from last year's Westknits YAL; I love how soft it is! For the contrasting black I used Wollmeise Twin.

The most challenging part about knitting these very simple socks was that I used the Addi CraSy Trios for the entire project. When I first bought them earlier this year, I tried them briefly on another sock project, but switched to Magic Looping when they didn't feel comfortable. But I figured it was probably mostly about lack of practice, so I decided to give them another try. They kind of grew on me along the way, even though I think I still prefer Magic Looping with long-tipped circular needles, due to the way I like to hold my needles. I don't generally like short needle tips, because I like to have a longer to needle to rest my hand on, but I do prefer the CraSy Trios to DPNs, because there are fewer needle changes. I will likely use these again in the future!

November 1, 2018

Right Around the Corner

Right Around the Corner

Right Around the Corner

Having been going through some times of missing knitting inspiration lately, I felt test-knitting this garter stitch shawl for Lisa Hannes might be just what I needed. I've done some test knitting for her in the past, and her patterns have always been excellently written, and so was this one. I was also drawn to the relaxing simplicity of the garter stitch and a triangular shawl. As a bonus, I was able to put to use one of the skeins from TitiTyy's Feel It yarn club; the variegated yarn is Tough Sock by WalkCollection, paired with a matching skein of Knitlob's Lair Tuulen Tytär from older stash. The tassels are a nice touch; I like how they weigh down the tips of the triangle a bit.

August 12, 2018

Enchanted Mesa

Enchanted Mesa
Enchanted Mesa

As I took stock of the knitting projects I've finished so far this year, I was a bit shocked that there are fewer than one per month on average. I'm still likely going to finish more projects this year than I did last year (my slowest knitting year in a long time), and most of the my projects this year have been on the large side. While it's important to me that the process of knitting is enjoyable and relaxing, I do love the feeling of completing something. Unfinished projects quietly nag at me, wanting to be completed.

I've wanted to knit Stephen West's Enchanted Mesa for a while now. One of my favorite things about the design is the fact that you get half a sleeve done before you even realize you're knitting a sleeve! I'm always looking for sweaters with an unusual construction that help me avoid knitting a traditional sleeve tube. The original pattern does come with full-length sleeves, but leaving them out was perfectly OK. The sleeves are usually the part of a sweater project were I loose my knitting mojo, and are at high risk of being forever left unfinished.

I loved knitting this sweater! I held together one strand of single-ply fingering and either lace or light-fingering weight plied yarn. I like the drape and airiness I got with 4.5 mm needles. I'm realizing the majority of my projects this year have been knitted with multiple strands of yarn and needles larger than I used to find comfortable. I'm now obsessed with combining different yarns for interesting effects! As most of my stash is fingering weight or lighter, I can easily get a DK or worsted gauge by combining a few strands. I can also use up yarns I would probably never end up using on their own.

August 7, 2018

Tucking Into My Tucked Cowl

Tucking Into My Tucked Cowl
Tucking Into My Tucked Cowl
Tucking Into My Tucked Cowl

Back in July at the Jyväskylä Knit Festival I took part in Nancy Marchant's workshop on tuck stitches, and a large part of the class was about casting on and starting to knit a cowl using one of the tuck stitches in the class handout. Nancy told us to start with around 96 stitches, or some more or fewer, depending on the circumference of the cowl we wanted to end up with. Because I knew I wanted a cowl long enough to wrap around my neck twice and not be too tight, I thought it would be a good idea to go with 300 stitches. It just sounded like a nice, round number.

As the class went on, I learned I had made more than one mistake early on that bothered me enough that after the class I frogged the original beginning of the cowl and started all over again, with the same number of stitches and design, just minus the mistakes. I had picked Brooklyn Tweed Arbor as my yarn, largely because we were supposed to bring DK weight yarn and, despite my ridiculous stash, I don't have a lot of. But it actually worked out fine, and I had enough of the white and grey colorways to end up with a decent sized cowl. I think for my next cowl I'm going to go with something a bit more drapy, but I'm still happy with this one. It's my first project made solely of Arbor.

The tuck stitch pattern is reversible, and I actually prefer the wrong side! It's the reversibility that now has me hooked on tuck stitches, and I plan to make more cowls with different stitch patterns, because I think cowls and tuck stitches are a good match. Not that I was the one to come up with that idea originally! I have Nancy's book on tuck stitches, which has a ton of different stitch patterns to choose from. Now I just need to make up my mind regarding the stitch and yarn!

July 29, 2018

Crochet Station

Granny Stripes
Granny Stripes

It appears I'm in the process of going through various non-knitting crafts this summer! For a while I've wanted to crochet a blanket. I think there is only one blanket I've crocheted to completion so far, and among my crafting related hobbies it's out there among the ones I only get into sporadically, in contrast to knitting. I always have at least a couple of knitting projects on the needles, and only feel the need to venture into other territories every once in a while. Blankets are the kind of project where crocheting makes sense to me, while I'm probably never going to crochet a garment. I may have crocheted a shawl in the pre-Ravelry times, but for them I also prefer knitting as the technique.

While I enjoy large projects like blankets, what helps keep them interesting is the changing of colors. It's unlikely I'd knit or crochet a blanket in a single color, but I also don't like there to be too much fiddling, which is why I'm a bit concerned about projects that require a lot of smaller pieces to be seamed together. That's why blankets made in one piece, requiring only simple stitches but allowing for multiple color changes are ideal. I also love using up scraps of yarn, so something like the Granny Stripe pattern by Attic24 is pretty much the perfect project for me. I'm using fingering weight yarn and hook size 3 mm. I estimated around 300 stitches should make for a decent sized blanket, so I started with 300+2. I'm doing only one row per color because I quite like the look. The rows don't look as much as solid rows as interlocking rows of small colored squares. I'm trying to pick colors my sister would like, since this is going to be a blanket for her new home! I also like seeing how speckled or other multicolors yarns turn up when crocheted.

July 15, 2018

Spinning Kainuu Grey

Handspun Kainuu Grey
Kainuu Grey Long Draw

The fiber purchase at the Jyväskylä Knit Festival foretold a return to the spinning wheel. After I'd become the owner of some new spinning fiber, I kept itching to spin again. However, I had to wait to get back home from a road trip, on which I did not bring a spinning wheel (or a sewing machine), unfortunately.

I first started spinning yarn almost exactly three years ago. An owner of an Ashford Joy 2, I'd never taken a class on spinning, but learned from books and videos on my own. A year later I took my first (and so far only) spinning class at the Jyväskylä Knit Festival. Around that time I sold my first wheel and replaced it with a Schacht Matchless, soon followed by a Hansen miniSpinner. However, I never really got the hang of either of the new wheels, and so so far my best spinning has come out of the Ashford Joy three years ago. Then I abandoned spinning altogether for almost two years, occasionally feeling a tinge of guilt over the unused Matchless sitting in the corner of the living room.

Yesterday I dug up the Hansen miniSpinner and refreshed my short draw skills. I'd never excelled at it in the first place, and the long break had not improved my spinning for sure. But I did manage to come up with something at least resembling yarn using some Kainuu Grey roving, which was relatively easy to handle. But then I got curious how difficult exactly it would be to spin long draw instead. I first practiced on some spare fiber, and it seemed manageable. Then I started a proper project with the other batch of Kainuu Grey roving I had, which turned out to be slightly trickier to spin evenly, I think due to the slight stickiness of the fiber (it has some lanolin in it). However, it did not feel harder than the short draw, at least, so I kept going. I'm now about a half-way through spinning the single, which I will probably chain-ply, just like the first one. I used the Matchless for the plying of the short draw single, because I couldn't easily get things right to ply on the miniSpinner. Both the long and short draw singles are somewhat uneven, but I'm relatively satisfied with the results so far considering it's my first spinning after a long break.

July 8, 2018

Day 4 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 4

On the last day of the festival the only activity left for me was visiting Titityy, the yarn shop that organized the event. Their new, bigger premises are so lovely! Both the athmosphere and yarn selection are wonderful. There was so much I could have brought home with me, but I limited my stash additions to various sock yarns (for "testing") and some Icelandic wool.

Overall, the festival was very well organized and offered a lot. So many interesting classes, plus knitting related social activities. The market place offered various opportunities to leave with a lighter wallet and an expanded stash. I hope there's going to be a festival again next year!

July 7, 2018

Day 3 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival 2018

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 3
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 3
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 3

Day 3 of the festival consisted of some market place shopping and one workshop. Back when I signed up for Nathan Taylor's double-knitting workshop, I'd never heard of him before, and while I'd heard of double-knitting, knowing the technique existed was the extent of my knowledge. I was interested in learning a new technique, and that's exactly what the workshop provided. Nathan's enthusiasm was quite infectious, and helped with the learning curve associated with new techniques. I know the very basics of double-knitting now, though I got only halfway through my workshop swatch. I will definitely have to give this some more time and effort to get fluent in it. If we compare it to learning a new language, I'm barely able to say "How are you?" and "My name is Helena" at this point.

Today I also returned to the festival market place to check out the booths I didn't get to yesterday, and return to the Isokummun lammastila booth to get some Kainuu Grey spinning fiber. I've been wanting to get back to spinning for a while now, and I think this wool will help with that. I've never spun this fiber before, but it seems like something easy enough that it should gently ease me back into the spinning groove again. The only yarn I've bought from an actual festival booth is the Primrose Yarn Ultimate Sock in the form of a delicious fade combo. I'm looking for a new go-to sock yarn; while there is nothing wrong with Wollmeise Twin, I feel like moving onto something softer and fluffier for a change.

Day 2 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival 2018

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 2

The second day of Jyväskylä Knit Festival was quite busy on my part. It was the first day of the festival that the market place was open, and naturally it required an appropriate inspection! I took part in the knit parade for the first time, which was fun. Managed to knit and walk at the same time without tripping!

Right after the parade I took part in a yarn dyeing class by Julie and Jean-Francois Asselin, which was very hands on! Some of the other students were already so skilled that they came up with nothing but gorgeous colors skein after another (including that multicolored yarn in the pot). For me it was more of a learning from my mistakes experience. My main dye job, two 100 gram skeins of sock yarn, was an attempt at my dream green, a dark, saturated color. I'm pretty satisfied with the result, even though both skeins have a large dark blot that was not really intended to be there. However, I'm happy enough with it that I might turn the skeins into a large shawl. I definitely recommend Julie's and Jeff's class if you have any interest in hand dyeing yarn and have a chance to take part in one. They work hard to give you a great experience!

After the class I had to hurry a bit to make it to the Laine cruise, which was the main social event of this festival. On the 3-hour cuise there was socializing, eating and drinking. The highlight was Jonna from Laine magazine interviewing several designers or other prominents members of the knitting community. Hearing their thoughts was interesting and inspiring!

July 5, 2018

Day 1 of Jyväskylä Knit Festival 2018

Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 1
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 1
Jyväskylä Knit Festival Day 1

I've been looking forward to the Jyväskylä Knit Festival for months, and now it's finally here (and I'm there)! On the first day I took part both in Isabell Kraemer's Top Down Sweater Knitting and Nancy Marchant's Tuck Into Your Own Brioche Cowl.

I've taken part in sweater related knitting classes before by other designers, and you learn something useful and interesting from everyone. I enjoy hearing what experts have to say on a subject, even though I've been knitting for about 20 years. I have relatively little experience in sweater knitting, and not all of it good, mostly due to fit issues.  This time I learned useful stuff particularly about the yoke construction. It helps in understanding why things happen in written patterns, and how to modify them for your own purposes.

At Nancy's Tuck Stitch class I felt like I was learning something elemental. While I'm familiar with brioche, I have very little experience with other tuck stitches. Tuck stitches seem to go particularly well cowls, as was the theme of the class, since they look interesting on the wrong side, as well. I'm totally inspired to knit a tuck stitch cowl now! I've been wanting to knit a cowl for a while now, just waiting for the right pattern. I actually already bought Nancy's Tuck Stitches book a while ago.  Probably the best thing I get out of knitting classes is inspiration!

July 4, 2018

The Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket

The Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket

The Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket

Yay, the colossal undertaking of the, umm, Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket is finished! Even if my life feels a bit aimless without this project to work on anymore, I'm very happy that it's finally done. The blanket, modified for a smaller gauge from Stephen West's Garter Squish pattern, was knit with three or four strands at the same time throughout, which resulted in an impressive length of 11 km of yarn used. It weighs 2.4 kg, so moving or folding it is a bit of an exercise. Knit with 6 mm needles and at a gauge of about 15 stitches/ 10 cm, I cast on 220 stitches. The finished measurements are roughly 170 x 145 cm, but I'd take those with a grain of salt, because it's so heavy and stretchy that you can pretty much mold it to match whatever measurements you want to achieve. In any case, it's big enough for me to nap under it!

I think the biggest challenge for me was to get a pleasing marled effect. At first I thought that, knitting with four strands, I can freely switch one strand at any time and not worry about a smooth transition, but it turns out that if the contrast between the old and the new strand is big enough, there is going to be a noticeable, abrupt change, regardless of the three other strands staying the same. I think I got better at the marling near the end. This project was a quite educational in knitting with strands of different color.

July 2, 2018

Everyday Fashion Sewing

Sewn Shirts and Skirts
Sewn Shirts and Skirts
Sewn Shirts and Skirts
Sewn Shirts and Skirts

For the past few days I've been totally obsessed with sewing! I'm starting to enjoy the actual process of sewing more, even though the finished product is still the main thing about it. I bought a book called Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter because for a while now I've had the idea that I would like to sew myself some practical and nice looking everyday clothes. That was one of the reasons I originally bought my sewing machine and serger about 1½ years ago, but back then my sewing experiments didn't amount to anything I would wear in public, and I didn't use any actual sewing patterns, either. During the long hiatus I'd forgotten most of the rudimentary sewing skills I used to have, but after making a couple of project bags I had refreshed my memory enough that I knew how to operate my sewing machine again.

I'm very happy with my sewing machine, a Bernina 330, that I bought from a local shop (warmly recommended for my Finnish readers). It sews like a dream, working through four layers of heavy denim like it's no big deal. I also love some of the handy features like the needle up or down option. It has a ton of stitch patterns, even if 95% of the time I'm really using the basic straight stitch. For edge finishing I mostly use my serger, a Singer Heavy Duty 14HD854, so I don't even have a lot of use for the zigzag stitch on the sewing machine most of the time. The serger is also highly recommended, even thought I have nothing to compare to since it's the only serger I've ever operated in my life. It's simple to use, reliable and sturdy. There is something about using machines that I really love, as a contrast to the hand-powered knitting.

The shirt pattern is called Esme and it has several variations, two of them shown here. The only modification I made was to shorten the 3/4 sleeves a little to compensate for my short limbs. The skirt pattern is called Tedra, and while I love the basic shape of the pattern, the details left room for improvement. I did not like the original finishing touches, or the lack of them, and particularly the black version of the skirt has several modifications which are not apparent to the outside. For example I changed the way the waistband is lined. I will probably be using this skirt pattern again, but with my own modifications. With both the shirts and the skirts it was a constant learning curve to me, since I'm very much a beginner when it comes to sewing. I'm learning how the type of fabric has a huge effect on how the piece of clothing turns out. I've also learned that I really like working with denim!

I have a lot of ideas what I want to sew next, but I think I need to get back to knitting to touch base with my signature craft.

June 17, 2018

Drawstring Project Bags

Drawstring Bag

Drawstring Bag

Drawstring Bag
I'm never sure if I should call myself more of a process or product knitter, but with sewing, for sure, it's mostly about the end product. When I dug up my sewing machine and serger after 1½ years, I was reminded of how, at most, 10% of the time spent on a sewing project is actual sewing. I do enjoy the sewing part, but it's a bit frustrating that the huge majority of time is spent in prepartion for it: choosing and cutting your fabric, setting up your sewing machine (probably having to refer to the manual on more than occasion), ironing at every step, and googling instructions for even the simplest of projects. After such a long break, I needed to refresh my memory on what the various buttons on my sewing machine are for and how to adjust the stitching.

The nice thing about sewing, on the flip side, is that you can usually finish what you started on the same day. The fabric stash (still of a reasonable size compared to my yarn equivalent) can also be depleted much faster than yarn.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of my sewing so far has been knitting related, including the drawstring bags destined to be project bags. I used a video by MADE Everyday as reference. The strings I sewed myself from strips of fabric.

June 3, 2018

New Horizons (and Gauges)

The Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket

It's alive! Since knitting is one of those aspects of my life I try to, more or less successfully, keep stress-free, it means I only blog about it if I feel like it. I have been alive and knitting with varying intensity, just not blogging!

One new area of knitting I've ventured into lately is larger gauges and needles. It used to be that needle sizes beyond 4 or 5 mm made me uncomfortable, and about 75% of my stash is fingering weight or finer. Knitting at a larger gauge is actually physically more demanding, but I'm starting to get used to it. Instead of buying a bunch of heavier weight yarn I'm knitting with two or more strands of finer yarn held together, which, as it turns out, is a wonderful way to use up your stash. As a result, I'm now obsessed with using up years-old bits of stash, and I take great pleasure in labelling pieces of stash as "all used up" on Ravelry. I think that, so far this year, I've actually knitted more yarn than I've bought. Which does not necessarily mean that my stash is still anywhere near reasonably-sized.

Pictured above is my Colossal Stash-Busting Blanket, being knit with 6 mm needles and three or four strands of yarn held together. I'm only about 50% done, but it already weighs 1.2 kg and has eaten up about 5 km of yarn. The project is based on Stephen West's free Garter Squish pattern, which I've modified for a slightly smaller gauge, about 15 stitches of garter stitch in 10 cm (because 10 mm needles would have been too big a leap). I cast on 220 stitches to compensate for the gauge change, but I think it's turning a bit wider than it needs to. I'm planning to knit until it's about 2 meters long. Halfway in it's already so big that placement is a consideration while knitting. If I hadn't been knitting it during one of the warmest Mays in Finnish history, it would have been great at keeping me warm. Mostly I keep it next to myself while knitting on the couch, and it takes up the space equal to a small person. It's definitely not the go-to project for when you need something pleasantly portable!