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I know a few knitters who do not have Work In Process (WIP) projects or UnFinished Objects (UFOs) lying around the house. And I know knitters who have WIPs and UFOs in dark corners of their closets.

I admit. I have more than my fair share of WIPs and UFOs. Some live in variety of states in their baskets and armchairs around places where I normally sit, some live in their relatively organized state of dormant-ness in cabinets. They have all been abandoned for one reason or another.

A few months ago, I did my latest round of culling these WIPs and UFOs. I think what I have now on my hands are projects that I want to finish. (Oh and yes, it felt so good to just throw away that Kaffe Fassett intarsia cardigan in fingering weight cotton.) Some are a bit daunting — one sleeve left to go on Alice Starmore’s Mary Tudor sweater that I abandoned in 1998, for example — and some are not so daunting.

Intention #2 for 2015: Along with all Crafters, world wide. Finish those WIPs and UFOs!!!

I bet this is a pretty popular intention at the start of the year. I have been trying to be at it so far this month though, and have made pretty good progress on several projects.

Like…My brother-in-law’s cashmere fisherman’s cardigan.

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My BIL is not a big person. But you know what? He is still man-sized. Which is (thankfully) bigger than me by more than a couple of inches in every dimension, making this sweater infinitely larger than what I want to knit. On top of that, he was SO EXCITED for a hand knit sweater, running out to go get the yarn, and the buttons. To boot, his mother is a tailor, making him rather particular regarding details on his clothing. Which just increases the stress level for me. But this needs to be completed. I need it off my plate.

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Or, this sweater. I’m almost finished, but it’s a turtleneck sweater in chain plied merino (um, shall we call it a single season sweater?). The yarn is beautiful….FAR by Woolfolk. (Read more about Woolfolk here — I think it’s a great story). And the pattern is frankensteined out of Adara by Michelle Wang (for the beautiful color work and the “feel” for the sweater) and Blank Canvas by Ysolda Teague (for the fit. This is a WONDERFUL pattern to have on hand for a great raglan/saddle shoulder worked in the round).

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Or, remember this shawl? It’s the project that I said would be the “NEXT POST” back in…August and because I didn’t finish, made me go on a hiatus on this blog. Knit out of laceweight yarn that I handspun from a gorgeous Hedgehog Fibres batt.

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Or this color work vest, Barrington Vest by Jared Flood, out of Brooklyn Tweed LOFT  which would be a welcome addition to my work wardrobe!

These are just a few examples. I would love these garments as finished objects, and I intend to finish them this year. This is one of the reasons why 2015 Intention #1 was accessories-centric — I have plenty of BIG projects already in progress. (And projects that I don’t….hate!)

Here’s to clearing off some of these works in process off my To Do list!

Tour de Fleece is currently ongoing.

What’s Tour de Fleece (TdF)? It’s the fiber world’s answer to Tour de France. Spinners all over are pedaling on their spinning wheels as world class cyclists as they tackle Tour de France. We mimick the rest days, the “challenge” days, and set a goal of basically spinning every day during the month of July.

I’ve been spinning along, although I’m not sure if I’m consciously spinning any more or less than normal. I have been trying to do something different everyday, switching up fibers and methods of spinning, and trying to really consciously spin. Which is my goal for this TdF — I am trying to get closer to being able to visualize the final garment, pick the right fiber, and spin the right yarn.

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Believe it or not, this is a lot harder than it seems. I am still feeling my way, and still cannot look at/handle a fleece (raw or prepped), and have confidence knowing what it should become.

There are many kinds of fiber crafters. People who identify themselves as Spinners, Weavers, Knitters…and there are those who can do it all.

I am most definitely a knitter first and foremost. I love the whole process. Handling yarn and knowing what it needs to be….or visualizing a garment and going in search of the perfect yarn. I do, most definitely, over complicate the process, but for me, there’s nothing like creating THE perfect knitted garment for the intended wearer.

Spinning fits well into this because it gives me the illusion of being able to dictate this process just a bit more. There are now fibers and preparations that I think are better suited for a mill produced yarn. I have become even pickier (if that was possible at all) in my yarn purchases. It excites me that the yarn market seems to have started the process of evolving into breed specific yarns and I think there are more knowledge out there, thanks to people who are passionate about this writing about it and producing very special yarns.

Back to TdF. I’ve been spinning!

Of course, I’ve been spinning some of the lovely cormo/cashmere. I’m trying to spin about 900+ yards of 3-ply sport weight for a Stonecrop. I think the garter lace body on this would be perfect for a round, squishy heaven of a nicely spun cormo. Add the cashmere and I can feel snuggling into it as it starts to get nippy outside.

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I have also spun some Romeldale-x fleece from Shepherd’s Hey Farm. The ewe’s name is Molé, and I’ve washed and hand combed her fleece (she was much smaller than Cambridge!). So far, I’ve spun some 2-ply fingering.

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…and I’ve cast on. It is going to become a Hitofude (by the way, this is pronounced He-Toe-Foo-Day, and means  “one brushstroke” in Japanese). I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a shawl or a sweater first out of this yarn, and I think this is a nice compromise. This pattern is a runaway hit, and there are 1,522 of these swingy cardigans on Ravelry, one of which is on my needles:

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I also finished spinning from a corriedale batt from Hedgehog Fibres that I began spinning last month. This was a big spin, and will be the topic of my next post. It’s the green/gold/lavender yarn that is pictured at the top of this post, and this has been cast on into a large square shawl which, I am hoping, will fully showcase the glorious colors of this fiber.

And, I’ve also spun some 3-ply aran weight yarn, spun woolen, in happy shades of orange. I spun this to have a bit of a break from the skinny stuff I’ve been spinning, but it will make a nice warm fluffy hat.

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I recently finished my first shawl of the year.

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I’m not exactly sure what is happening so far in 2014 (I think it’s called the spinning wheel), but I am surprised that it took me so long to cast on a shawl. I think I had forgotten that I love to knit lace, how just arranging well planned holes and twisted stitches transforms yarn into something so amazing. And how the spaghetti that comes off the knitting needles just metamorphosizes into glory once it is blocked.

For me, there is nothing that flies off the needles faster than a well designed shawl.

So, when I cast on Jared Flood’s Sempervivum shawl in a wondrous grey yarn from Hedgehog Fibres, a score of an experimental shade that was in the dyer’s personal stash, I could not put the needles down.

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And, as a bonus, this shawl is knit from the bottom up, which means that, the most stitches you’ll have on the needles is at cast on!

I am always careful about using variegated yarns on lace, as not to detract from the lace motif. However, I think this yarn worked out pretty well. No striping, no pooling… just hints of blues, greens, rusts in a wash of grey.

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I have been wearing this shawl nonstop. And yes, I’ve cast on another shawl!

I’ve always loved mohair — it is a strange love since I’m usually not attracted to fluffy and lacy things. (My excuse is “it’s so warm” but really, I honestly think it’s the fluffy that I love.)

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My addiction to kidsilk lace went up a notch early last fall when I knit BooKnits’ Almost Autumn in French Market Fibers Mohair Lace in Spanish Moss.

To be honest, I did it because I wanted to knit this shawl on large needles. I really didn’t expect the resulting mound of fluffy loveliness. This shawl sort of sits around the shoulders like spun sugar. It’s incredibly pretty.

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Earlier this year, you saw me tap my mohair lace stash again to knit Heavenly by Romi Hill out of French Market Fibers Mohair Lace in Brandymilk Punch. Knitting this shawl made me go on a total mohair buying bender, and I grew my mohair lace collection by adding several yummy selections from Hedgehog Fibres (and did I ever) and Neighborhood Fiber Co.

It wasn’t going to take long for me to dive into that mound of mohair to come up with a selection for a shawl.

One of the colorways in kidsilk lace that I purchased from Hedgehog, Tremble, needed to be made into the latest Romi Hill Pins & Lace Club pattern, Winter’s Moon.

The club yarn for this design was a more sheepy yarn (and don’t get me wrong, I love what Brooke from Sincere Sheep does and her Equity Fingering is absolutely gorgeous), but I thought the design with the double yarn over mesh at the top ending in a set of chevrons (which were screaming to be beaded — so I obliged) was just perfect for some mohair action.

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Just look at how subtly variegated this yarn is. I used square glass beads in “oil slick”, which I thought mirrored the yarn color.

Here’s the latest addition to my mohair shawl collection!

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Trust me. Everyone needs a cloud of gorgeous mohair to wrap around themselves!

 

IMG_8610Sometimes, a designer publishes a pattern and you know exactly which yarn in your collection wants to become it. (This is EXACTLY the reason why a knitter must have the well curated collection of yarn!)  And when that designer is one of your all time favorites, and the perfect yarn is from one of your favorite indie dyers….well, it’s a match made in Knitter’s heaven and in those cases, it’s as if there’s a magic jet attached to your knitting needles.

At least, that is what happens to me. The knitting flies. I’m a woman obsessed, eking out every free second to return to my version of crack.

This exact thing happened to me when Romi Hill gave us a New Year’s present. She took parts of all the shawls we knit as part of her Pins & Laces club during 2012 and put it together into a stole. Out of mohair/silk lace.

Heavenly is the pattern, and my crack yarn of choice for this stole, French Market Fibers Mohair Lace in Brandy Milk Punch colorway.

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The one great thing about Ravelry is that when a pattern like Heavenly comes out, there is mass excitement, and there’s usually a group of other knitters that you can do a virtual knit-along with. Romi has a great group on Ravelry, and it wasn’t long until there was a group of us who convinced each other to abandon other knitting commitments (remember those Christmas presents that got wrapped with needles in them!?) to dive head first into the new project.

This is a bit of a dangerous venture for me, because getting excited with other people just throws fuel to the fire. I think we all whipped each other up into a frenzy, into a buying frenzy — to a point where I really thought that we may have, collectively, cornered the mohair lace market!!!

Of course, in the middle of this mass group enabling time, another one of my all time favorite yarn dyers, Beata at Hedgehog Fibres did an amazing update….with lots of kidsilk lace.

Needless to say, this is not the only kidsilk beauty that ended up in my collection, waiting for the next design inspiration. I’m good at enabling others, but I am super good at enabling myself!

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It’s Beata’s Concrete colorway, which is a very complex grey. I LOVE this color, and I think it is especially pretty in this base.

IMG_1432I am actually surprised at my ridiculous enthusiasm for mohair silk. It’s a relatively recent love. I’ve always assumed that the fuzzy would bug me, and because my taste tend more toward the sleek and tailored, a mohair anything seemed a bit too girly for me. But what can I say? A shawl knit out of mohair silk is so light and so warm, I can really channel my inner-girly and wear the shawl with aplomb.

It has been windy and chilly here in NYC. And Heavenly has become a total mainstay of my wardrobe since I’ve finished knitting. It’s warm, it’s light, and it goes with my black and grey work wardrobe!

What should I knit with my Hedghog yarn?

Remember that college application essay question, “if you were able to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, fictional or non-fictional, who would it be, why, and what would you talk about?”

I think I tailored the answer depending on what college I was applying to. I think my go to character was Macbeth.

It’s been eons since then, and my interests have changed a little. I don’t need to pretend to have dinner with someone as tortured as Macbeth (— in fact, I think I would be scared to have dinner with him) to impress someone reading my college applications anymore!

shawl with legoIf I were to write that essay today, I think I would say that I would love to have a conversation with Frank Lloyd Wright. And, since I’m no longer an impressionable teenager, while I would politely listen to what he may have to say for himself, I think I would try to convince him to try knitting design as a creative outlet. Can you imagine the amazing shawls? The geometry, the balance….and what about sweaters? I think he would be killer.

Dream on!

However, we have a bevy of designers drawing inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright. Laura Aylor did just this, and last summer she published All the Shades of Truth. (Stop with the Fifty Shades of Grey snickers!!) It’s a great color block design, all in different shades of grey offset with white.

I wanted this shawl in the worst way. Otherwise, I would not knit 1,600 yards of garter. But you know that “project brain” that you get? When you can rationalize any amount of knitting, however complicated, because theoretically you can “do it”?

Well, my “project brain” went into overdrive. Perfect for working on during conference calls, it said. Just think how much you will wear this, it said. It will be a really nice break from lace, it said.

I had a really clear vision of what I wanted. I wanted greys and cream, like the original design, but I wanted a pop of color. And I had the perfect skein of orange-ish brick red from Hedgehog Fibres that would pay homage to Cherokee Red, which was supposed to be FLW’s favorite color. (I say homage because if I whipped this skein of yarn out at the fictional dinner, he would tell me that it is most certainly NOT Cherokee Red.)

How do I get the perfect greys for the shawl? Grey comes in various undertones, and I needed really clear greys of different values — no brown hues, no purple hues, perhaps a bit on the blue scale of things but just a touch. I was online with my friend Andrea from At Bullard Farm almost immediately. “Andrea, I need 3 different shades of grey,” I wrote her, “and these are the Pantone colors I want”.

Oh I am spoiled. Because with Andrea’s yarns, I don’t have to worry about the base. I know they are yummy. The base I used for the shawl is BFL Beauty (70% BFL, 20% silk and 10% cashmere). This is a base that takes color beautifully… And with Andrea’s sense of color and where she goes with her palette, I knew I could depend on her to produce the perfect grey shades for me!

I was right. The yarns were perfection. Now….the 1,600 yards of garter?

IMG_8648I actually finished knitting this in 5 weeks, back in July. Not so bad. I will give you one advice if you want to knit this shawl. LISTEN TO THE DESIGNER and carry the yarns through the work. I, of course, did not, and it took me for EVER to weave in the ends. I mean, five billion ends.

True to my prediction, I wear this cozy shawl all the time, with my grey (surprise!) winter coat.

IMG_8650As an aside, recently, the designer celebrated her birthday by hosting a giveaway of her patterns to her fans. Thank you Laura! I saw All the Shades (and the related cowl/scarf, Oak Park) up in the most popular patterns all week, so I expect many interpretations of her pattern popping up in Ravelry FOs. I have downloaded The Litchfield Shawl, so expect this shawl to creep into my WIP over the course of this year.

Now…..back to lace!

It appears that I was well on my way to catching a cold when I posted last, which explains why I seemed completely intrigued by liquids.

Armed with Purled’s chai recipe (folks, it is ridiculously good — the only thing I have done  to it is adding a stick of cinnamon for its warming properties), I have been a busy bee on the knitting front.

It also helps that it’s baseball playoff time, which means hours and hours of potential knitting time while supposedly socializing. I have one such afternoon coming up, and while my guests are armed with beer and hot wings, I will be content with my sweater in my lap.

See. Knitting is also my way of “dieting”. If my hands are busy, and I have gorgeous yarn running through my fingers, do I want wing sauce all over my face and hands? I can just have my share, wash my hands, and knit away as my 100 wing tub magically disappears.

Just in case I drink beer, the sweater I am working on is stockinette in the round. It’s going to be perfect (although I’ve been known to seriously mess up very simple knitting while knitting socially).

Just in time for Rhinebeck, fresh off my needles is Romy by ANKESTRICK. I made sure my sweater was fall-weather ready by knitting it out of Hedgehog Fibres Merino Aran (the old yarn — Beata has a new Merino Aran base out that is now superwash — I haven’t tried that yarn yet) in a great pumpkin-y orange called Rusty Nail. It variegates from yellow to brown, going through almost every shade of orange. It’s got a high neck to ward off the wind, and this is the other sweater which will require some Jennie the Potter buttons to complete.

This sweater almost knit itself. I was really intrigued by the contiguous shoulder method, so that took a bit of reading and ripping out (complete user error. This was the first time I knit an ANKESTRICK pattern and I was not 100% familiar with the set up. Once I “got” it, though, it went swimmingly — the pattern is fantastic), but once I saw what was going on, the knitting flew. The measurements in the pattern are perfectly clear, and this sweater, fitted properly at my shoulders feels like a garment custom made for me (which it was, of course, but fitting a sweater is not always easy). It may be because the sweater was knit at a relatively tight gauge and it is a “slim” fit, but it is feeling less bulky that I thought it may.

I love this sweater, and while it hasn’t been worn in public yet, I am hoping that Rhinebeck weather cooperates.

Eying any new sweater patterns?