Adventurous April 2018

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.

Adventurous April 2018

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

Adventurous April 2018

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.

image from forums-d.ravelrycache.com

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!

Adventurous April 2018

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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Adventurous April 2018

Adventurous April KAL: The Third Yarn Giveaway

This week's yarn giveaway for the Elliebelly Adventurous April KAL will let you get a head start on organization for the KAL.  To win, set up your project page for the KAL on Ravelry.  Here's mine, as an example.

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If you haven't set up a project page before, it's easy.  Go into Ravelry and find the pattern you are going to knit, then click on the link to start the project.  Once you create your project, you can click edit to adjust the details, for instance giving your project a name and showing an April 1, 2016 start date.  You can do this even if you haven't picked a pattern yet, by naming a project and choosing a personal pattern (not in Ravelry) as your pattern for now, with the ability to go in and edit it once you decide.  

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The most important thing to do?  Tag your pattern with ElliebellyAdventurousApril2016 (all one word) and Elliebelly.  On Saturday, I'll search the tags on Ravelry and randomly select winners from those who've tagged their projects this way, so it's important to get it in there exactly right so that your project shows up in the search results.  There will be some yarn included in this giveaway that is worsted weight for those knitting Rye as well as some fingering weight for those planning on doing Zigzagular or other traditional sockweight patterns.  Put enough info into your project page so that I know which weight of yarn to send you if you are one of the lucky winners!

If you haven't signed up yet for the Elliebelly Adventurous April Knit Along, all the details you need to know can be found in the Ravelry group.  Leave a comment below if you need any additional help and I'll get back to you.  You don't have to have Elliebelly yarn for this KAL — knit with anything your heart desires.  But, I'll be doing a few more giveaways this month to insure there is Elliebelly yarn available to help out those who want to knit with it.

 

Adventurous April 2018

The Last Square

Forgive me for a moment of self-indulgence, but it's a milestone in my knitting.  I've cast on for the last square in my daughter's Barn Raising Quilt.

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Only a deathly inexperienced knitter would have decided it was a good idea to knit a quilt from sock yarn. Seriously, what was I thinking?

I started knitting this quilt on October 6, 2008.  I know that because of this blog post and really bad photo. It was the week I took my oldest child, now getting ready to start his second year in law school, to look at colleges in New England.  Even then, I seem to have some self-awareness and characterized the idea of knitting a quilt with sock yarn on size 2 needles as a bit "loopy."  Um, yeah.

My intention from the start was that I would knit the squares in between and around other projects.  I wanted to finish in time for my daughter to go off to college, and knew I would need a lot of time for the finishing work — putting all those tiny squares together.  I'm not sure I had a seven-year trajectory in mind, though.  On the plus side, even with the finishing work, the quilt should be done in plenty of time to be a birthday present or graduation gift during her senior year.

As I look back on this project, two things come to mind.  First, I started this project in the early days of Ravelry (I had joined a little more than a year before I started this project, in July of 2007). It was back when I bought books to access patterns.  Larissa Brown's Knitalong, the book that contains this pattern, is a lovely book that is still on my shelf.  I can see it as I type.  But, I rarely use books for patterns anymore.  Ravelry has radically changed my knitting life in so many ways.

Second, as I look over my squares and see how much their quality has improved as time progressed, I'm forced to reflect on how much my knitting has grown in those years.  After learning to knit as a young child and effortlessly knitting some fairly complicated sweaters and blankets as a teenager, I put my needles down when I went off to college and rarely knit until my third child, she who is eagerly awaiting this quilt, received a knitting kit for her fourth or fifth birthday.  I knit it for her, thought it was fun and decided to knit another scarf.  I haven't been without multiple projects on my needles in the decade since then. I've learned a lot in that time (see, Ravelry, supra.)  I never imagined I would knit fair isle, intricate lace, or bold cables.  I never knew the acrylic of my childhood would give way to the most amazing array of cashmere, blue-faced leicester, silk, linen and fantastic merino yarns.

I'm grateful for my knitting years as an adult.  This quilt fills me with a profound sense of happiness and accomplishment — feelings I hope my sweet child will take with her as she goes off to begin her own adult life.  Of course, it may be premature to count my blessings here.  I do still have that last square to finish.