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:

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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.

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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.

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Apparently, Michael can’t find his Oversized Hat. It’s not in the closet, not stuffed into the sleeve or pocket of a winter coat, not in the snowboarding bag, and not in any other logical place for a hat to be. Intead of asking me to knit a new one for him, he asked me for advice with making his own replacement. As we were driving right past WEBS on our way to Stratton on Saturday afternoon, we stopped there and he picked out a skein of Cascade 220 in a light heathery gray-ish blue, like the colour of perfectly worn-in jeans.

I showed him how to use the swift and ball-winder in the store:

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After we’d had dinner and checked into our hotel, I showed him how to do my favourite cast-on for socks and hats, the stretchy one with slip-knots (video instruction on YouTube):

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With only a quick reminder of how to knit and purl, he was ribbing away (on the other side of the room, because the light was slightly better there).

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By Sunday evening he was more than halfway through the ribbed part of the hat. I’ve assured him that it will go much faster once he’s on the stockinette portion! And of course, completing the new hat will be the magic that makes the old hat re-appear.

Meanwhile, I knit the heel flap and turn of the textured sock, stopping just before picking up the stitches for the gusset. There should be pictures of that progress later this week, and I’ll also tell you about the charity fundraising project that’s been taking my time away from knitting. Stay tuned!

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Although summer did its best to hang on long past its usual farewell, autumn is finally beginning to take hold. We had our first frost warning of the season this week. I gave in and turned the heat on (just at night, though) and put the electric blanket back on the bed… then I remembered that I’d been crocheting an afghan, and brought it out of hibernation. Here are the first four squares I made… three years ago. Ooops.

First Four Squares

I’ve been working in strips that are 12 squares long, and I have three of those completed already. The finished blanket will have 14 to 16 strips in total, depending on how long it gets once I put it all together. The slowest part of the process is making the chain for each new square, so I thought I’d try making a strip or two of six double-sized squares. The last few rows are satisfyingly quick, with so few stitches to work.

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Some of my friends are gently encouraging me to sign up for National Novel Writing Month, but I think I might dedicate November to this blanket instead. There’s little chance of actually finishing in only 30 days (not with 140 squares left to go, no way!) but if I focus, I could make some significant progress. Maybe I could even have it done before next summer…?

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The pattern for Sheep Etu suggests first pinning the stuffed feet to the body of the sheep to get the right balance before sewing them on. I didn’t bother doing that, since Wee Sheepie is going to ride in the car and won’t need to stand up on its own – and I saved myself the effort, as none of the feet ended up exactly where I thought they would go, anyway. Perhaps my sewing-together skills could use some improvement, but the feet were so tiny and awkward, and moved around a bit as I worked.

Anyway, once I’d crocheted the fluff on, it didn’t much matter…

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I started at the top of Wee Sheepie’s back with just single crochet, but it wasn’t fluffy enough, so I soon switched to mostly double crochet – “mostly” because I added in some extra stitches here and there, as needed, to round out the sheep’s shape. The Buttercup yarn is really tricky to work with! I dropped the hook a few times and had a hard time picking up a loop, as the floofy fibres completely obscure the stitches. But without too much cursing, I worked my way around and around until Wee Sheepie was no longer naked.

There’s enough Buttercup left over for a second sheep. The first one is so cute, I’m more than a little tempted to make another!

Taking a good picture of a fluffy white sheep is another challenge altogether. It’s much cuter in person than most of my photos showed! So instead of more sheep shots, here’s a picture of Sparkplug, the cargoyle I mentioned on Monday, which inspired my brother to request a sheep in the first place.

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In my car I have a small stuffed gargoyle – a CARgoyle – named Sparkplug, who comes along on all my drives. Sparky was given to me as a good-luck companion when I got my very first car, and he’s ridden along with me in every car I’ve owned since then. My brother asked me if I could knit or crochet a companion for his drives, but not a cargoyle – no, he wanted a sheep.

I was reminded of the scene from the beginning of Le Petit Prince:

le-petit-prince

“If you please–draw me a sheep!”

“What!”

“Draw me a sheep!”

I found the Sheep Etu pattern on Ravelry and bought some Red Heart Buttercup, which practically looked like a fluffy sheep already. But when I tried to start crocheting the little sheep, I was quickly frustrated – the fluff of the yarn made it impossible to do a magic ring, never mind being able to see the stitches.

What to do, what to do… a-ha! Another Raveler suggested using a smoother yarn to make the body of the sheep, and then surface-crocheting the fluff onto it. The smoother yarn turned out to be some of the leftover Jacob I’d spun for the Winterlude Hat a few years ago. What’s more fitting than making a sheep out of sheep’s wool? The face and feet are also made from a small amount of leftover KnitPicks Andean Treasure.

In an afternoon of watching football (how ’bout dem Cowboys?), I made the components of a sheep:

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Crocheting the sheep parts took a surprisingly long time. The dark face and feet were particularly challenging, as I was working with a smaller hook than the yarn called for so that the stuffing won’t peek out. But now the sheep is ready for me to sew on its little feet… and then, the floofifying can begin.

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I bought this skein of Socks That Rock lightweight in the “Smokey Mountain Morn” colourway at Maryland Sheep and Wool in 2012, and last week decided to wind it up for a new traveling sock. The pattern, I thought to myself, should have some texture to it but a relatively easy stitch pattern to memorize, and after searching through Ravelry for what seemed like days I finally settled on Stanton. There were some runners-up that went into my library for later, too: Menehune Cobblestone, the Harris Tweed socks, and the very-popular Hermione’s Everyday Socks.

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On Friday morning, Michael and I boarded a plane to Las Vegas for our friends’ wedding, and I cast on and began to knit. (I was very pleased with myself for remembering how to do a slip-stitch cast on without having to look it up, too!) On Saturday I sat by the pool with the girls and knit…

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…and on Monday, when we had a five hour return trip on a plane without in-flight entertainment, I knit and knit and knit some more. The stitch pattern is fantastic. It was very easy to memorize (though I’m still figuring out how to ‘read’ it when I make the inevitable attention-wandering mistakes) and the texture works great with the spiraling colours. I’m just a few repeats away from the heel flap, which continues the textured pattern instead of going to the usual standard slip-stitch flap, and I’m excited to see how the colours will play out over the flap and gusset when the number of stitches changes.

I did feel a little guilty about starting a new sock when I have two already on the needles, but the Stripey Striped Sock is terrible for travel knitting as the yarn makes my hands ache, and I really didn’t like the idea of dropping a stitch of the Jaywalkers mid-flight. Both of those socks have been ongoing for way too long, though, and I really should buckle down and finish them.

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Hooray! I have a new pair of socks!

tiger_sock

I started the Tiger socks at the beginning of the year and now I’ve finished them just in time for fall. They’re a pretty standard 64-stitch sock, knit from Opal “Rainforest” yarn in the hard-to-find Tiger colourway. I bought two balls of it from a Raveler in Australia, if I remember correctly, way back in 2009! The white toes are knit with Valley Yarns Huntington that I bought at WEBS in January.

Usually, I try to make striped socks match each other. That just wasn’t possible in this case as the stripes were completely uneven – and towards the toe of the first sock, there’s a weird extra orange stripe in there. I don’t know how that happened; there wasn’t a knot or anything. But hey, real tigers aren’t always perfectly striped either.

Eventually, the other ball of Tiger yarn will become socks for Michael (though I think his will also have white cuffs, else we’ll never be able to tell our socks apart). There’s enough left over from the first ball to make a pair of fingerless gloves for myself, too!

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The spinning project proceeds (but all the pictures look the same, so…) Meanwhile, Michael’s birthday was last week, and he’d mentioned that one of his washcloths was starting to look a little thin. I can get two cloths from one supersize ball of yarn, so I made one for Michael and gave the second to my brother. Goodness knows I have enough of my own at the moment.

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The washcloths are made of Sugar ‘n Cream in the Hippi colourway (with white for a border on one of them), and I went down one hook size from my usual (from 5.5 mm to 5.0 mm) to try to get a tighter fabric. The pattern is my favourite, Woven Stitch Dishcloth. With the larger hook I know that if I start with a chain of 38, I’m likely to get argyle – but with the slightly smaller hook, that didn’t work out as well. I’ll have to figure out the numbers when I make the next cloth, because I do like the smaller stitches.

I drove up to Connecticut so that I could bring my bike (no pictures from the ride, unfortunately, but it was fun) and on the way I stopped at Palisades Interstate Park to stretch and take in the scenery. The Tappan Zee bridge is just barely visible at the turn of the river; I drove over it shortly after taking this picture.

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For my next trick– er, spinning project, even though the Tour de Fleece has ended and the Olympics has begun, I decided to go with this BFL from Three Waters Farm, in the “Stone House” colourway. I bought eight ounces of it at MDSW wayyyy back in 2011, and I’m a little embarrassed to think of how long it’s been sitting around waiting for me to spin it. Here goes…

threewatersfarm_bfl_stonehouse

Since the last yarn I spun was a barber-poled two-ply, meaning I didn’t try to line up the colours in the two strands of yarn at all, I decided to chain-ply this one in order to maintain stripes of colour in the finished yarn. If the colours played against each other in a traditional two- or three-ply, I think the finished yarn would come out pretty, but overall solid-ish looking from a distance – and that’s not really what I’d like. (Actually, you know what would be interesting? Spinning one braid to be chain-plied, and splitting the other into thirds. Hmmm!)

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The very end of the braid was a little matted together, as they all tend to be, but the strands of fibre loosened up a few inches in and got easier to draft. I’m spinning this fairly fine with lots of twist, since I’ve had trouble with chain-plying lower-twist yarns in the past. It’s so frustrating when the singles drift apart in the plying process! I feel like a more tightly-spun yarn is going to be more durable in the long term, though of course the flip side of that is that the tightness of the yarn can affect the drape of the finished project.

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This fibre isn’t superwash, so I don’t think I’ll use it for socks. Perhaps I’ll make it into a little shawl or wrap – despite (or because of) the August heat, my office has cranked the air conditioning way up, and I need something to keep me from slowly freezing solid… that I can take off as soon as I walk out of the building!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been spinning for nine years already. I’ve come so far from my first lumpy attempts! And it’s just as hard to believe that the blog is almost ten years old… but it is. This has me thinking of doing something special for my blogiversary. Perhaps a giveaway or a contest might be fun. What do other bloggers do? I have until April to figure it out.

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