That Wonderful Feeling When You Finish Knitting

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I finished Vitsippa.  It now goes into the category of memory-knits, because it will forever be the project I was knitting when I was here. (Glacier Park, Montana)

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It is also one of those knits that is infinitely enjoyable — the pattern is well written and easy to follow for a project that looks rather complicated.  At the end, you're left with a feeling of great satisfaction.  And, it was a skill builder for me as I'm trying to improve my fairisle skills to get ready for knitting this sweater.  I enjoy stranded knitting, but I'm still working on the evenness of my stitches and on feeling completely awkward with the whole knitting with the yarn held in two different hands thing.  Vitsippa helped a lot with both of those issues.

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As soon as I finished, I immediately wove in the ends and put Vitsippa on my head.  And didn't want to take it off, even though it's over 90` here.  I had no trouble finding a model for it.  In fact, before I was done, everyone in the house had it on their head.  The ribbing is deep and stretchy (I hate it when there isn't enough ribbing on a hat).  I used a long tail cast on, and it worked perfectly.  The finished hat is comfortable, beautiful and not too tight — pretty much the hat you're going to reach for every time you hit the trails all winter.

More Knitting With Blue Faced Leicester

On the heels of yesterday's post, I thought it would be fun to share more of the projects, like yesterday's Little Plum Shawlette, knit in Blue Faced Leicester yarn by the incredibly talented group of knitters who have been helping me test yarns.

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These test knits use a variety of different BFL based yarns. The cowl on the top left was knit in Elliebelly BFL Superwash. The brown portion of the floral socks is knit in Elliebelly BFL Sock, the same yarn used in yesterday's shawlette. The red mitts are knit in Elliebelly BFL Aran, the original BFL yarn I dyed and still my favorite yarn to knit with.  The green socks are knit in Elliebelly BFL Constant, a yarn I was originally hesitant to dye because of its high nylon content.  I convinced myself to try it because of its potential to result in super strong socks for kids, but ironically, it has become one of my favorite sweater yarns as well.  The nylon in no way alters the feel of the BFL and the yarn resists pilling and takes color beautifully.

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For Ruxton, the green shawl in the upper left hand corner of this collage, we are back to BFL Superwash Sport.  I adore this yarn and it's paired perfectly with this pattern, which is such a clever, textural knit.  The red sweater is knit in Elliebelly BFL Cash-Silk Sock, a blend of 70% BFL, 20% Silk, and 10% Cashmere.  It took only a couple of projects, this being one of them, to convince me this yarn was a keeper and compared favorably to other luxury blend yarns.   The sweater with the large cable down the front is knit with two fingering weight yarns held together for a marled effect.  One of them is the ever-versatile BFL Sock.  Definitely not just a sock yarn.  The lacey blue sweater is also knit from BFL Sock.

Conclusions?  You should all run out and find some yarn with Blue Faced Leicester and knit with it.  Now.  Seriously, it's wonderful yarn.  And fortunately, you won't have to go to England to  buy some like I did originally.  Although Elliebelly yarn isn't being sold currently, there are a number of good commercial and indie options for buying BFL and I encourage you to enjoy the experience of knitting with it.

The first purpose I envisioned for this yarn was diaper cover pants for babies who were cloth diapered.  It's fabulous for that purpose, and if you want to see some of my earliest dyeing and favorite projects, you'll find a few pages of adorable projects for babies on Ravelry.

image from images4-e.ravelrycache.com© elliesmomm  Elliebelly BFL in the Guppy Creek Colorway

A Simple Knit Scarf

One of my favorite fibers to work with is the wool of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) sheep.  It is a long fiber wool and quite light, so it produces soft yarn with the additional benefit of a pretty sheen, much like wool fiber that is blended with silk.  It produces a strong fabric that is perfect for socks and has long been a staple of British knitters, but it was relatively unknown here 16 years ago.  I first stumbled upon it on a trip (because I visit yarn shops on family vacations.  I just do) and picked some up to use for diaper covers for my daughter.  And I was instantly hooked.  It became one of my favorite fibers to knit with and later, to dye.

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BFL is increasingly well-known to US knitters. Canadian and American raised BFL is spun into yarn along with its counterpart from Great Britain.  Lately, I've been testing different blends and spins of BFL yarns to try and come up with a few favorite yarns.  And, I admit, it's virtually impossible, because I like them all.  This project is the Little Plum Shawlette and it is knit in BFL Sock, a 100% fingering weight yarn, not treated with superwash, that is primarily intended for socks but is versatile enough to work for scarves and other accessories.

Over the years since I first discovered with it, I've knit frequently with Blue Faced Leicester and the results are always pleasing.

BFL Projects

A quick note about the purple scarf pattern.  It was released the month that Prince died and the designer's description of the pattern made it impossible for me to pass up, especially since I had some yarn on hand that I had dyed in my oldie but goodie Purple Rain colorway:

 I have loved Prince since the 1980s and was so sad to learn that he died suddenly. This shawlette has stitches that each commemorate a song by The Artist. I get that this is MAJORLY dorky, but when I was between designs, Michelle from Bo Peep Fine Yarns messaged me suggesting a Prince commemoration. So, when you’re a knitter, you knit, and when you’re a fan, you fangirl (yes, that’s a verb….my 12 year old daughter knows.) So, this is me fan-girling in an utterly mortifying way, no doubt!

This must be made while watching Prince videos or listening to his music. But you knew this, anyway. If there’s any desire for a KAL, let me know…although I’m probably one of only 3 Prince knitting fans!

There are 6 elements that commemorate Prince in this design, from bottom to top:

1 – Purple Rain drops
2 – Diamonds and Pearls
3 – Doves
4 – Doves again because this is my favorite song.
5 ”X’s” for “Kiss”
6 Seed stitch…it works round and round and is a a cool kitty. And I love it.
7. As an afterthought, the shawlette is skinny, just like Prince!

It’s Fun To Knit A Hat

 

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There is nothing quite like knitting a fairisle hat. For a quick knit that leaves you feeling accomplished, there is nothing as satisfying.

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I noticed this for the first time when I knit the Peerie Flooers hat last year, a multi-colored adventure into stranded knitting. I really wanted the finished hat and resigned myself to taking ages to knit it, but it was impossible to resist watching the colors weave in and out of each other and it knit up surprisingly quickly. In bad romance novel language, I was seduced by fairisle.

Vitsippa is turning out to have the same sort of allure. Although I put it down for a couple of weeks after knitting the ribbing to focus on Oak Park, in just the weekend, I'm half way through the body.

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A few quick links if you are new to fairisle (or stranded) knitting:

     It's worth watching the Philosopher's Stone video and feeling awkward for a bit to teach yourself to knit fairisle with two hands. I'm a confirmed English knitter and almost never knit Continental, but I love how it keeps my yarn from tangling to be able to knit fairisle with both hands And, it's surprisingly easy after about an hour of (frustrating, you will likely use language unsuitable for the ears of small children) practice.  Trust me on this one.

     How to catch your floats neatly (scroll down to the section on wrapping the yarn while you knit). Yarn dominance – it's important to understand this for consistent patterning.

     Stranded knitting is almost always written in chart form. No matter what you think, I promise it is not scary. You can master a fairisle chart with a few markers and some color coding. Or, better yet, use Knit Companion. The free one hour overview class revolutionized my knitting life. No affiliation, but I use it for all of my knitting and find I make far fewer mistakes. You owe it to yourself!

Knitting With Cashmere: My Oak Park Shawl

I love cashmere.  Always have, always will.  And, I love knitting with it. Good cashmere is liking having butter slipping through your fingers.

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So it was a pleasure to knit Oak Park in The Plucky Knitter's aran cashmere yarn, Cachet.  Oak Park is a triangular shawl, knit from the bottom up.  This means that it moves very quickly at the end and the last several pattern repeats move so quickly that it's done and off the needles before you realize it.

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Knit in the pattern yarn, it's a pretty, full size shawl that has enough heft to keep you warm on a cool night.  But it also wraps around your neck nicely and has enough drape to be worn as a scarf.

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Although it takes a repeat through to see the pattern evolving, it's not a difficult knit.  I did end up marking off each pattern repeat of 16 stitches with markers so I could catch any mistakes quickly.  But the pattern is easy to memorize and made for pleasant car knitting, not something you can't carry on a conversation while knitting.  This is probably not a pattern for a new knitter unless you are quite brave and adventurous, but it's pretty enough that if you love it, you should go for it.  Amy Miller, the designer, has her own Ravelry group and there is lots of support and advice there for those knitting this pattern.

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This shawl will always be extra special for me, as I knit a good bit of it while on our family vacation in Glacier National Park.  I carried it in my backpack on hikes, knit it at waterfalls, and brought it out (pictured above), when we emerged from hiking into the splendor of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, Canada for tea.

Almost Off The Needles

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After a late-night knitting binge, my Oak Park is almost ready to come off of my needles. I hope to finish it today and get it ready for blocking.

I’m going to miss knitting it! The cashmere yarn is like knitting with butter. But since I’ll get to keep it wrapped around my neck as soon as the weather cools off, that will be some compensation.

The cashmere is remarkably light weight for a shawl knit from worsted yarn. And the color is perfect with my wardrobe, since I wear a lot of black. This may just be my favorite knit of all time.

Knitting And Waiting

Delta may be down, but I'm not! Despite the 4:30 am notice that my flight was canceled, I'm making good use of my time while waiting for rebooking. This is my Oak Park in Plucky Cachet. I'm about half way.

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Knitting Families

Poppy knits

I'm enormously grateful for my maternal grandmother who, among many other things, taught me to knit.  I'm grateful to my Mom, who has nurtured my love for knitting and other crafts at various stages along the way.  And, I'm enormously amused and proud to be part of a family of knitters.  All of my cousins knit (belated shout out to my cousin Ann who knit me the most gorgeous cabled aran when I was in college in Maine), but undoubtedly my favorite family knitting photo is this one of my Uncle, happily knitting himself an afghan.  He learned to knit as a public school child in Britain during WWII.

Vacation Knitting — A Wrap Up

Knitting on vacation is a joy.  And an agony, when you don't have the right tools.  Midway into our trek through Glacier National Park, with nary a yarn store in sight, I realized that the 6" DPNs I have brought along to knit Vitsippa, my fairisle hat, on, were going to be too short to accommodate all the stitches once I finished up the ribbing and added additional stitches called for in the pattern to begin the stranded portion of the hat.

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So here I am, rather unattractively sweating and knitting away, trying to recover from the hike up the Highline Trail, whilst coming to the sad realization I'm going to have to put Vitsippa away until our return to civilization.  The view was compensation (and if you've read my earlier post, the knitting really liked the view too).

Next, I pulled out my Oak Park, renamed Glacier Park in honor of the trip.  Oak Park is a triangular shawl, knit in a devious pattern that is constantly shifting.  I had been looking for a pattern for my three skeins of The Plucky Knitter's Cachet (aran weight cashmere) in Slumber, my most prized yarn, for a really long time and was so happy when a friend suggested this pattern.  I was one repeat in when we emerged from hiking the Swift Current Trail in Many Glacier and made our way on up to the Prince of Wales Lodge on the Canadian side of the park, only to discover that they served a very nice tea.

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I knit away on Oak Park/Glacier Park for the rest of our hiking time, and ended up just shy of three repeats in at the end.  It's an absolutely lovely pattern and precisely what this yarn wanted to become.  I'm going to be so happy with it as soon as it isn't 90` that feels like 100` degrees with the humidity in Alabama.  (Let me digress and say it was 40` when we flew out of Kalispell, Montana, and I really wish I was still there!)

Amazingly, there was a yarn store when we made it to Whitefish, Montana, our last stop.  And, a day of rain that was perfect for exploring town, eating some delicious crepes, watching the huge logging trucks roll in filled with freshly cut timber, and stoping by the local yarn store, Knit 'n Needle where the lovely proprietress encouraged me to pick out a circular rather than longer DPNs. I fell in love with the store yarn, Polka Dot Sheep, and engaged in a little stash addition.  And we discovered that the fabulous Huckleberries we had been picking and eating along the trails were used for all sort of pastries in town.  What a wonderful place to end our trip!

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Armed with my new 16" circular needle, I returned to Vitsippa on the flight home.  After picking up a few stitches that had dropped off the overloaded DPNs, I was back in business. Sorry about the bad airplane lighting on the picture, but I'm so excited about the colorwork on this one that I can't wait to share it.  That's The Plucky Knitter's Oxford in Waxing Poetic (the gold) and Bedrock (the gray).  I love knitting fairisle and am really enjoying this one!

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Truth be told, I love my day job and our life in Birmingham, but there is a little part of me that would love to remain under Montana's Big Sky, knitting and hiking.  It was a wonderful vacation and it reminded me of decades ago trips with my grandparents, which not too surprisingly, featured hiking and knitting, along with some fishing.  It's fun to come full circle like that.

I can't end this post without a few trip pictures.  First off, this lousy camera phone picture of a BEAR who was swimming casually across a LAKE about 40 feet away from us as we drove to the trailhead to hike Bertha Lake in Canada.  It was a moment — we could see him skimming through the water, magnificent and large.

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Hiking in the alpine meadows was spectacularly beautiful.

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And being able to see the waterfalls and lakes, as well as the animals and flowers, made it worth several of the more challenging, steep portions of the trails.  I would do it again in a heartbeat, knitting and all!

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Adventures in Knitting

The arrogance of a sedentary desk-worker, hiking seven miles, a good bit of it straight up hill and at 7000 feet is sort of astonishing. The fact that I hurt all over and I'm exhausted? Not so astonishing. And it's only day 2 of summer vacation.

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But knitting at the top of Montana's Highline Trail was really worth it. Really, really worth it.

Not a lot of progress on Vitsippa, but I'm liking Waxing Poetic and Bedrock, both on fingering weight Oxford 2.0 from The Plucky Knitter, together.