When I vacation in new cities, I like to buy yarn as a souvenir. I don’t collect figurines or spoons or mugs; I don’t want anything that will just sit on a shelf collecting dust. Yarn, especially sock yarn, is perfect – I always know how much to buy, and when I get around to knitting it up I can remember the whole vacation and the excursion to the store. Later, when I wear the finished project, I get even more remembering! (Like the socks I was knitting in the hospital waiting room during the hours before Eldest Niece was born. I like those.)

I was in San Jose on my birthday, where I bought this skein of Malabrigo Sock in the “Lotus” colourway at Green Planet Yarn. (And Michael got a set of Karbonz DPNs, as long as we were in the store. They’re niiiice. They’re gonna be mine when he’s done knitting his socks.) I had a hard time picking just one thing to buy, and I kept getting distracted by the sample knits in the store. Some of them were really gorgeous!

After San Jose we went to Salt Lake City, where I found two yarn stores right near each other. First, we went to Unraveled Sheep, where I bought a Greenwood Fiberworks braid of merino top in the “Twilight” colourway. I have a braid of their yak/silk already, which is the softest thing I’ve ever touched, and when I found out that they’re a local dyer – well, I just had to get this one.

Next we went to Knittin’ Pretty, where I had an even harder time deciding on what to get, and finally settled on this Cascade Heritage Paints in “Teal Mix” that kept calling to me.

It was a lot of fun to visit these three shops, talking with the owners/staff, and seeing the variety of yarn, notions and samples in each one! I also made significant progress on my current pair of socks – the first one is done and the second is nearly to the heel flap. I’ve got a double handful of design ideas from people-watching in the ski lodges, too. It’s so nice to come back from vacation rested, relaxed, and full of ideas and inspiration.

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So, this mistake where I swapped a brown stitch with a blue stitch had to be fixed. I couldn’t just leave it there, not if I ever wanted to be pleased with the finished project.

I placed a removable marker around the stitch below the offender and knit to just before that column of stitches. (I’ll note that I should have put the marker into the stitch, rather than around it. I learned from this small mistake and got it right in the second column.)

…and then I dropped the next stitch off my needle and helped it to ladder down. The marker is now where it should have been: holding the stitch just below the one I need to fix and keeping the column of stitches from dropping even farther.

It was surprisingly easy to re-catch the stitches and pick them back up to the needle. Here the first column has been fixed, and I’ve moved the marker to the stitch below the one that needs fixing in the second column.

When it comes to picking up the stitches in a ladder, I’ve found that a small DPN is easier for me to use than crochet hooks. This is a US 1/2.25mm needle that I borrowed from the nearest sock-in-progress. It’s a good deal smaller than the US 4/3.5mm needles on which I’m knitting, which is beneficial if the stitches are tight.

I slipped the DPN through the lowest stitch, then picked up the strand coming from the neighbouring stitch of the appropriate colour. It’s easy to find with a little bit of tugging on the yarn. Then I can either duck the tip of the DPN with the picked-up stitch through the lower stitch, or use my fingernails to lift the lower stitch over the new one. Either way, it’s important to be careful that neither stitch is twisted and that all the yarn’s strands have been captured.

Here’s the fix! You can’t even tell that it was ever wrong.

I was just as concerned about the inside looking good as I was about the outside! Whether it was dumb luck or skills I didn’t even know I had, the inside of the hat looks exactly as it should. Once it’s been washed and blocked, it will be next to impossible to find the fixed stitches.

Q: How long did it take to fix?
A: Not very long. Less time than I spent agonizing over it, anyway. The timestamps on the pictures say it was 24 minutes, but I also spent eight of those minutes on the phone and I also paused to take pictures of the process. So maybe, maybe, it was fifteen minutes at most.

Q: Was it difficult?
A: Way easier than I thought it would be! The colours have so much contrast that it wasn’t challenging to see which strand I needed to pick up. I did split one stitch on the way up the second ladder, but I went back and fixed that too.

Q: Will you spend so much time waffling over whether to fix the mistake the next time this happens? Because you know there will eventually be a next time.
A: Of course I will.

Q: Even though you really know, deep down, that you can’t leave a mistake like that and you’re going to fix it?
A: Yup.

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It was bound to happen, I suppose. I only wish I’d noticed it sooner. But there it is. A brown stitch where there should be a blue one, and then a blue stitch where there should be a brown one.

I posted to the Ravelry thread for the “Colour Your Winter” challenge to which this hat belongs, and everyone either said that it would be fine to duplicate stitch over the mistake, or that it would be fine to just leave the mistake and no one would notice.

But… I would notice. I’d never be able to not notice. I told the helpful Ravelers that I’d sleep on it and decide what to do, but I already know that I’m going to drop down the eight rounds and fix it. On the plus side, the floats in the back will maintain an appropriate tension since the two stitches will be swapping places!

If I can get good pictures of the fixing process, I’ll share them. Otherwise I’ll just fix it and move on – the hat is very close to completion! There are only a few more rounds to go before I start decreasing for the crown. On a design note, I don’t think I like the way I’ve charted out the top, so I’m going to work out some changes and see if they look as good in yarn as they do in my head. Stay tuned…

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Yesterday I hurriedly left the office because it was starting to snow, and while the forecast was only for a little accumulation that can really cause rush-hour troubles here in northern Virginia. (You’d think we’d learn, but no.) Any excuse to hurry home and knit is a good one, right? The snow turned out to be nothing much, but I decided that a good soup was in order for dinner anyway… partially because hearty soup is so pleasant on a cold night, but mostly because soup is practically effortless and leaves more time for knitting!

So I chopped up some veggies and meat, tossed it all into the pot, set it to simmer, and settled in for the evening. I’m so pleased about how this hat is coming out that I fell into that “just one more round!” mentality and stayed up past my bedtime. But look how far I got! I measured it up against an existing hat that fits perfectly, and it looks as if the new one is also going to be just right for my head after it’s washed and blocked. The overall height may need to be adjusted, so I’ll put in a lifeline before I start the next motif.

I’m hoping to have it done soon, and then I’ll refine the chart if necessary and knit another hat in the larger size to test that out, and then I can work on typing up and laying out the actual pattern, and can you tell I’m just a little bit excited about this one?

Anyway, here’s my non-recipe recipe for the soup I made. It was pretty much just thrown together from what was already in the fridge and pantry, but it came out absolutely delicious:

Spicy Split Pea Soup

Ingredients

2 cups dry split peas (I used yellow pigeon peas)
8 cups stock (veggie, chicken, beef, bouillion cubes & water, whatever)
8 ounces spinach, roughly chopped
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, cubed
12 ounces ham, cubed (optional)
spices to taste:
kosher salt
black pepper, coarsely ground
red pepper flakes
cayenne pepper
Jamaican curry powder
vegemite or a couple of anchovies (optional, for flavour)

Directions

Easy enough: Put everything in the pot. (If you put the liquid in last, there will be less splashing.) Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about two hours, stirring occasionally. Soup will continue to thicken after it cools, and may need additional liquid when reheated.

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To bring 2016 to a creative finish, I knit this quick floppy hat for a friend. She ordered the yarn and had it sent to me, and I knit it up in a few days. It’s amazing how fast knitting goes when one doesn’t have to spend eight hours in a cubicle away from the project, isn’t it? The yarn is Cascade 220 in a surprisingly sedate gray (I’d expected her to choose a bright pink), and the pattern is the Basic Hat Formula that I keep using because it just works. The hat got a soak in some expensive hair conditioner and dried on the boot-and-glove warmer, and though it’s still a bit stiff now, it will get more floppy the more it’s worn.

Michael also finished his own floppy hat (same pattern as above, same Cascade 220, but in a muted heathery blue). Of course that means that his lost hat will turn up at any moment, as is the way of lost hats.

After the hat, I think his fingers must have been itching for something to do, because he pulled out the sock yarn and half-a-sock he’d started knitting almost a decade ago. It had a few problems, primarily that it was going to be too large (blame me for that one; I’m the one who suggested the stitch count) so we frogged it, wound it into a skein, and left it to soak. He got started on a new sock with the second ball of yarn while I recharted sections of the still-nameless colourwork hat design.

By the end of the long weekend he’d finished the ribbed cuff and was moving on to the stockinette leg of the sock. He says he’s doing this so that he’ll have something to keep him occupied when we fly out west in a few weeks (snowboarding trip, woo!) but I’m starting to think he enjoys the process enough to keep going even when we’re not on an airplane.

Meanwhile, with the house to myself again, I’ll have the quiet I need so that I can concentrate on getting each of those four colours into the right place. I adjusted the chart to see if I could avoid a nasty jog at the start of each round, and I *think* it’s going to work, but only actually knitting the hat will prove my theory. More pictures should be coming later this week, when it actually looks like something!

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This is the official end of 2016 tallying-up post!


Incoming fibre in 2016:
Split half of an eight-pound MDSW fleece with Caroline

4 pounds, not accounting for weight lost to the washing and carding process

2016MDSW_with_fleece

Outgoing fibre in 2016:
6 ounces of Ashland Bay Merino Tussah became 353 yards of two-ply yarn
4 ounces of Sheepish Creations Merino/Bamboo/Nylon became 348 yards of two-ply yarn

10 ounces / 701 yards

20160710_wheel-and-tour


Incoming yarn in 2016:
1 ball Sugar ‘n Cream to make Michael a new washcloth (150)
1 ball Red Heart Buttercup to make a stuffed sheep (63)
1 skein Valley Yarns Huntington for white toes on the Tiger socks (218)
1 skein Cascade 220 for Karlin’s hat (220)

4 balls / 651 yards

tiger_sock

Outgoing yarn in 2016:
1 skein Cascade 220 for Karlin’s hat (220)
half a ball of Red Heart Soft, so my SIL can learn to crochet (128)
Leftover Jacob handspun for Dave’s Sheep (50)
Leftover Andean Treasure for Dave’s Sheep (25)
Half a ball of Red Heart Buttercup for Dave’s Sheep (30)
1 ball Sugar ‘n Cream to make Michael a new washcloth (150)
1 ball Opal Rainforest, for the Tiger Tiger socks (465)
2 balls Loops & Threads Impeccable for the Such a Square afghan (192 each)
1 ball handspun Fiber Optics yarn for the Gradient Hat (152)

7 balls / 1412 yards


The Year in Crafting:
I feel really good about my projects this year! I got a lot done, and more yarn out than in. (Can’t say the same about fibre, but hey, I bought half a fleece…) Everything I did this year is all together on a 2016 Projects page.

Favourite project:

Without a doubt, the Wee Sheepie.

20161018_sheep

Plans for Next Year:
More knitting! :D

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On April 4, this blog will be TEN YEARS OLD. Ten! Can you believe it? As my grandma used to say, “Who’d’a thunk it?” (And, as I’ve heard elsewhere, “how much could there possibly be to write about knitting?!” Quite a bit, as it turns out.) I’d like to release a new pattern to celebrate this significant “blogiversary,” but obviously that means starting now so that it has a chance of being ready for release in a few months.

I knew I wanted the hat to be stranded colourwork using four colours of yarn, which is outside the realm of my usual knitting – but a special anniversary calls for a special design! So I opened up Excel and started slapping colours into cells. Then there was a lot of rearranging, cutting-and-pasting, scowling, adjusting, centering, shifting, and re-adjusting. Eventually I had something I liked, so I retrieved the yarn I wanted to use (Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool) and some US size 4/3.5mm needles, and started knitting a swatch.

I knit several inches of stockinette to get a feel for the yarn, and then decided to swatch one of the motifs I’d charted. Unwisely, I failed to record the colourways and dye lots when I bought the yarn a few years ago, but the colours are a rich brown, cherry red, pale blue, and creamy white. It doesn’t quite matter, as I’m writing the pattern in two different sizes that will work with four different gauge tensions, so knitters will be able to pick the yarn they like best. This is the colour combination I like for myself, but I’ll offer a few other combination ideas in the final pattern.

Yep, I think that’s going to work just fine. The back side of the swatch is nifty-looking, too.

Once I’d measured and taken pictures, I unraveled the yarn and wound each colour back onto its respective ball. The swatch is pretty, but ultimately useless – and I might need that yarn before I’m done with the hat!

The hardest part of designing a pattern isn’t the charting, the writing, or the test-knitting… it’s coming up with a good name. “Four-Colour Hat” is all right for a working title, I guess, but it won’t do for the long term. Suggestions are welcome, of course! (Just not “Blogiversary Hat”. That would be silly.)

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After ripping back my failed attempt at a sock heel flap, I wound up the loose pile of yarn to keep it from tangling, waited for a quiet moment, and got to work on re-knitting the work I’d torn out. (My camera didn’t appreciate that the ‘quiet moment’ was also a dark one, so this photo’s a bit grainy. Oops!)

When the heel was turned, the gusset stitches picked up, a few rounds knit, that extra little ball was all gone, and I was pulling from the main ball of yarn again, I knew I’d gotten caught up. As a side note: I’ve turned lots of heels, but it still seems like a magic trick to make a three-dimensional pocket in an otherwise flat piece of fabric. I’m fascinated every time I do it.

Instead of following the pattern exactly, I slipped the first stitch of every row in the heel flap to make a much smoother edge. Not only does it look much nicer, but it’ll be far more comfortable to wear. As annoyed as I was to have to redo the work, I’m a better knitter for making (and correcting) errors – whether the error was mine, or part of the pattern as written. I won’t make that mistake again, for certain.

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In addition to the fibre arts, I have a second hobby that I enjoy just as much in a completely different way: calligraphy and lettering. I’m a graphic designer in my day job, and I’ve always had a love of letterforms and swirly, swooshy lines. Earlier this year I started an instagram account so I could easily share that art. Here are some of my favourite pieces:

Fancy lettering with lots of flourishes and detail…

White gel pen on black cardstock…

I love you more than anything. . . . #gelpen #inkthusiasm

A photo posted by inkthusiasm (@inkthusiasm) on

A stylized letter B that I did for the annual “Inktober” challenge (to make a new ink drawing each day of the month)…

And colouring pages, that I sometimes colour in myself.

“You could sell these!” people said, so I dusted off my Etsy shop and started to edit my profile there. And then… well, friends, I don’t want to make this blog political at all (I have my personal Facebook for that sort of thing. Bleagh.) so I’ll just leave it at this: then the US Presidential election happened, and I have some serious concerns about our future. Doing something small is better than doing nothing at all, so I started uploading pieces to the shop with the following promise:

**ALL PROCEEDS** from Inkthusiasm sales through January 20, 2017 will be donated to the ACLU, the SPLC, and Planned Parenthood. Every single dollar I make will be sent along. (So far there are only two dollars in that pot, but you gotta start somewhere.) There are some desktop wallpapers, printable art pieces for your walls, and I’ll be working on adding more colouring pages next.

If you like my lettering work, please follow me on Instagram and enjoy! And with that, I’ll get back to the usual irregularly-scheduled blogposts about fibre arts. :)

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I mentioned in my last post that I knit the heel flap and turn of the textured sock. Well. About that… The pattern instructions were to knit the heel flap in pattern, so I did. It didn’t mention that the first row of flap should be a wrong side row, so when I got to the heel turn and the pattern said to purl the first row, I was confused for a moment. But hey, whatever, I just knit a heel from the outside. No problem. (I’ve always started my heel flaps on the outside of the sock, but there’s nothing wrong with starting them from the inside. Either way works just fine.)

The pattern also didn’t say anything about slipping the first stitch of each heel flap row, and that sent up a number of red flags. But, trusting the pattern, I knit on. I turned the heel and picked up stitches for the gusset, and I started to have a bad feeling about the edge of the heel flap. No one else’s project notes mentioned a problem, so I decided to knit a few rounds of sock foot and see what was what.

It looks fine on the outside, with the new gusset stitches snugged up against the heel flap:

20161204_textured_heel_outside

But on the inside, there’s a nasty ridge of stitches. It might not look too bad in the photo, but in person it is, and it would be a really uncomfortable line down the sides of the sock if I left it like this.

20161204_textured_heel_inside_fail

The right thing to do is rip back and knit it again, with slipped stitches this time. I should have known better. Trust the pattern, but also trust your gut when it tells you that something’s going to come out wrong. It’s a minor setback, but still… Hrmph.

knits_angrily

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