Thursday, September 30, 2010

Practically Perfect in Every Way

You know how some days you feel good just to be alive?  This has been one of those days.

First, there’s the weather.  We’ve had a real mixed bag lately, alternating between sun and clouds and pouring down rain.  Today there is not a cloud in the sky, with just the hint of a soft breeze. 

I mean, there’s no other way to describe it other than soft.  I sat out on the swing this afternoon and was struck by how the light touch of the breeze felt neither cool nor warm, just soft.

Meanwhile, the air has been continually filled with the sound of birds chirping and chittering.  The feeders are a buzz of activity these days.  I’m used to seeing house finches, chickadees, house sparrows, and Stellar’s jays year round but I’ve recently spotted many of my favourites, including juncos, white-crowned sparrows, towhees, bush tits, and flickers, returning from their summer grounds.  The goldfinches are still hanging around but are wearing their winter colours and will soon be migrating south.

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I also woke up this morning with a sense of satisfaction.  Last night I finished the first pair of what I am dubbing “the Alaska socks”.

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The yarn for this pair was bought at Mission Street Arts & Fibers in Ketchikan.  It’s Bear Feet by Raven Frog Fiber Arts in the “Northern Lights” colourway knit into a basic stockinette sock.

Ketchikan was our last port and Raven Frog was the only yarn left on my souvenir list (I’d already purchased yarn from two other Alaskan dyers in Juneau and Skagway) but, truth be told, there wasn’t much of a selection so I chose what I thought was the best of the bunch.  I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the bright, neon green and purple bits but when I began to knit I was pleasantly surprised with how they knit up in predictable spirals against the navy background.  And with its cashmere content the yarn is oh, so soft.  I am going to enjoy wearing these this winter.

I also finished another pair of socks yesterday afternoon.  Two in one day—not bad, huh?

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These are “Archery Socks”, the second installment of Chrissy Gardiner’s CSK.  We’ve been gearing up for October’s sock, featuring yarn from The Unique Sheep’s Gradiance Collection and got our first glimpse of the pattern today.  Instead of simply knitting the shades from light to dark along the length of the sock, Chrissy has designed a sock that combines the shades from either end of the gradiance in a colourwork pattern.  As much as I’d love to jump right into this one I’ll have to wait until I receive my yarn order from The Unique Sheep, which probably won’t arrive for a couple of weeks. 

What did arrive on my doorstep and added to today’s perfection was my goodie bag from the CSK, which was awarded to the first 100 members to sign up.

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Besides a canvas bag, we received all sorts of goodies, including a needle case, a couple of yarn samples, a sock-blocker keychain kit, a scarf pattern, a stitch marker, a ruler/needle-gauge, notepads, pens and a pencil, a button, and a box of yarn-themed gift cards.

As if life wasn’t good enough, it is about to get even better.  On Monday afternoon we are setting sail on a two-day cruise to San Francisco, where we will spend three nights before heading home on Saturday.  My sister and brother-in-law, Alison and Stan, are traveling with us and we are all looking forward to exploring the city, touring Alcatraz, and going on a Napa Valley wine tour while we are there.  San Francisco is one of those cities I’ve wanted to revisit so I am very excited to finally get the chance.  Cross your fingers that the good weather there holds.

BTW, Hallett’s Ledge is back on track.  I’ve finished the sweater body but I’ve had to put it on hold for the time being while I work on some gift knitting.  I’m hoping to get back on the ledge before too long.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Falling off the Ledge

You know how it is when you start a new project and you’re all enthused?  You knit and knit and ooh and ah over your progress and don’t want to put it down for anything.

That’s how I feel felt about Hallett’s Ledge.

I cast on yesterday afternoon and happily knit my way through the ribbing.  When it came time to begin the decreases I plotted them all out in my notebook and began to tick them off as I worked each set.  By the time I went to bed I had several inches to show for my effort.

This morning I eagerly picked the sweater back up again and continued to work the ribbing.  I determined how long I wanted the lower half to be and worked a few extra rows to make up for the smaller row gauge of my DK yarn before beginning the increases.  Just after dinner I finally finished the ten or so inches of ribbing and prepared to begin the upper part of the sweater.  In only two days I’d knit about 2/3 of what it had taken me well over a year to accomplish on Fylingdales.  I was feeling great.

Then I counted my stitches and came up eight short.


It didn’t take long to figure out where I’d gone wrong.  Instead of decreasing every 4 rows once and every 6 rows 4 times I had decreased every 4 rows once and every 6 rows 6 times.  I’d obviously had six on the brain.  Sigh…

Resignedly, I frogged the sweater back to where I should have worked the final decrease and put the stitches back on my needle, ready to continue the pattern as written.  That’s when I realized that by doing so I would have to add an extra couple of inches between the last decrease and the first increase, significantly altering the lines of the sweater.  Blame it on the smaller row gauge and my long waist. 

Well, I’d rather do it right than do it quickly so I reworked the frequency of the decreases (every 8 rows 5 times) and ripped back a few more inches.  It’s on the needles again, ready to go, and with any luck I’ll be back on the ledge in a day or two.

I love knitting.  Especially ribbing. 

No, really… 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Fresh Start

In another week summer will officially be over and autumn will be upon us.  I love this time of year, when the temperatures cool down and Mother Nature treats us to one last blast of colour before the grey of winter settles in. 

Fall also signals the return of sweater weather and, for us knitters, sweater-knitting weather.  For the last week or so my fingers have been itching to cast on a sweater, particularly Hallett’s Ledge, which was featured in the latest edition of Twist Collective

I really wanted to use some yarn from my stash but the only thing I had that was comparable to the Rowan Felted Tweed Aran that the pattern called for was some Joe Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed.  While lovely, I didn’t feel that the cranberry colour really suited this design; I kept picturing it in a light neutral, similar to the original design.  In fact, I couldn’t stop envisioning it in the very yarn that was half knit up into my Fylingdales cardigan.

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Begun way back in January 2009, this sweater has spent most of its life languishing in a partly-knit state.  Every so often I would pull it out and knit a few inches but would soon grow bored with its repetitive stitch pattern and shove it back into its bag.  I really like the basic design of this sweater but the fact that it has drop shoulders kept niggling away at the back of my mind and I wasn’t sure that I would even like the finished product, should I ever manage to actually complete it. 

The yarn is also Jo Sharp Silkroad but in a DK rather than an Aran weight.  But the yarn is not your usual DK—it knits up more like a worsted and I didn’t think it would be too difficult to rework the numbers.  In fact, a quick check of the pattern showed that one of the cast-on numbers corresponded almost exactly to my required number of stitches making it relatively simple to sub in my preferred yarn.  Easy peasy.

So with very little regret and a great deal of relief (no more UFO on my conscience) I frogged Fylingdales, reskeined the yarn, and gave it a good soak to restore it to its original condition.

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Then I picked up an unused skein and cast on for Hallett’s Ledge.

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Now that I’ve given this yarn new life I am determined to knit it up into the sweater it was meant to be.  It has spent way too many months at the bottom of a knitting bag and deserves to see the light of day.