Saturday, September 21, 2013

Biking to Lake Cowichan

It hasn't happened for years, but I got sick this week, so I spent most of my time sleeping and knitting Stockinette in bed.  But last week we had our longest bike-y adventure yet!  We biked about 50 miles to the town of Lake Cowichan and back.

Most of the ride there was on the Trans Canada Trail, which we've taken before and really enjoyed, though it is a lot bumpier than the road.  (Read about our previous rides to the Cowichan River and to the Kinsol Trestle.)  I lost another bolt, this time from my front fender, so I'm getting really diligent about checking when I hear extra rattling.

One of the fun things about taking the trail is the amazing wildlife we get to see.

This snake was warming itself in the middle of the trail when I almost ran over it.  It was only about as big around as my pinky finger and it looked so beautiful.  It didn't move even when we took a bunch of photos up close, so I was worried that it was injured.  But, it seemed to warm up and scurry out of the path in an instant - I guess it was trying to soak in some sun.

We didn't go to the lake itself, but we did stop by the river for a snack and to dip our toes in.  It was a perfect break from the ride, and not too cold.

Another thing I enjoy about riding on the trail is all of the old converted railroad trestles.  Some of them are really high and some just rise a bit above the river.  It's nice to have good landmarks to tell how far we've gone.  

The ride home on the road was smoother, but extremely windy, so while it was faster, it wasn't much easier.  I do feel like I'm getting stronger though, especially riding somewhat longer distances (35-50 miles or so) about once a week.  I almost can't believe that a year ago I hadn't ridden a bike since childhood!  Aside from knitting, I think it's pretty much my favorite thing to do now.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hayward for Safety

As part of my professional life, I try to knit from other designers' patterns as often as I can squeeze it in. I love making things for myself and I always learn something.  (Check out my Vym Socks by Rebekkah Kerner, the last pattern I knit from.)  

I've been thinking a lot about slouchier shapes lately, and when my knitting buddy, Kirsten suggested that we both knit Hayward by Julie Hoover, I couldn't resist.

Have you ever had that stash yarn that you're afraid to use because it's so incredible that the project you make with it has a lot to live up to?  I've had this sweater's-worth of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in club color Flicker in my stash forever.  I finally decided that a plain Stockinette sweater would do the best job of showing off the gorgeous, gently-variegated color.

However, I've always been bad at Stockinette.  My rows were never even and it ended up looking sloppy and unprofessional.  It was okay if I worked only in the round, but back and forth in rows was a mess.  For years I've tried all the things to fix it - working with a smaller needle on purl rows, throwing, picking, wrapping my yarn the other direction.  In desperation I started just avoiding regular purling altogether by knitting back the other direction.  It worked!  I was really slow at first and was wrapping the "wrong" way so that my stitches ended up "backwards" on the next row, but working on this sweater let me really practice doing it right and now I'm pretty fast, I find it relaxing, and it actually looks neat!

Things I changed from the pattern:  
- I added ribbing to the hem because I didn't think the Artisan Sock would be willing to lay flat like Brooklyn Tweed Loft does.  I just used the tubular cast on instructions given for the sleeves and worked a couple inches in 1x1 rib.  (The tubular cast on given in the pattern is a really easy, great method that isn't finicky and comes out looking really nice.)
- My row gauge was a little bigger than the pattern, so my raglans are a bit longer than given, but I think it fits me about how it fit the model in the pattern photos, so I'm happy.
- I'm really long waisted, so I added about two inches in length to the body.  It probably wasn't necessary, but I like the tunic length I got.

Thoughts about the design:
- I loved working this in pieces.  There were very few "at the same time" instructions, which meant minimal brain power required.
- The seams really do add needed structure to this garment.  I think the shoulders would sag without them, and I'd be worried about the body stretching out of shape too.  Hooray for seams!
- The oversized fit with really long armholes is incredibly comfortable and cozy, though I'll admit it looks a little funny when I stretch my arms out.
- The pieces looked pretty silly when they were blocking separately.  The sleeves were like knitted orange traffic cones.  But it all came together beautifully.

Project Specs: 
Yarn: Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in color Flicker (club color) - about 1100 yards used
Needles: US #7/4.5 mm gauge needle, US #6 ribbing needle, US #4 tubular cast on needle - used Hiya Hiya interchangeable Sharps

You can see my project on Ravelry here, and while you're at it, check out Kirsten's version, worked in Loft.

Oh, and I called it Hayward for Safety because the color will be perfect as fashionable, high-viz gear for bicycling!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pussywillow Mitts in Knitty, Deep Fall 2013

Earlier this year I got to help out at the Hazel Knits booth at Vogue Knitting Live Seattle.  It was a pretty fantastic experience, and I got the chance to see some new yarns, among them Spincycle Yarns' new mill-spun beauty, Dyed in the Wool.  I'd been telling myself to try some more neutral colors, go with something calm.  (Just scroll through my Ravelry designer page to see my passion for bright, saturated colors.)  But I completely forgot all about that as soon as I saw Pussywillow.

I seriously just forgot.  The color overwhelmed my reasoning brain with how amazing it was.  When I got home and was petting and admiring the skeins, I suddenly remembered my goal of using more neutrals.  But by then I didn't care and I had a plan for my two precious skeins.  

I decided to take advantage of the incredible brightness of the color and make something bike-y with it, something that would be high-vis for safety, but also look good with my fall outfits.

Pussywillow Mitts have just been published in the Deep Fall issue of Knitty (which means they're FREE!)  They're super simple to knit up - the stitch pattern just involves knitting, purling, and a few other simple maneuvers, and the pattern is just four rows long.  The stitch pattern is really stretchy, so there's no shaping necessary.  You can make them as long or short as you want without adjusting the pattern much - just start the thumb hole sooner or later than suggested.  I really want to see a pair of these made up as full-length arm warmers, though of course that would take more yarn.  

They're designed to be worn with negative ease at the hand and forearm - I'm wearing the size Small in the photos - my hand circumference is 7 in/18 cm, my forearm circumference is 8.25 in/21 cm, and my wrist circumference is 5.5 in/14 cm.  The actual circumference of the mitt in that size is 5.5 in/14 cm, so they fit me well at the wrist and stretch comfortably to fit my hand and forearm.  

Spincycle Yarns Dyed in the Wool is listed on Ravelry as a sport weight, but it feels more like a heavy fingering weight to me (the label says, "Sport/Heavy Sock Weight"), so I can see these working really well in that special skein of sock yarn you've got hanging around your stash.  That being said, Dyed in the Wool comes in some pretty incredible colors.  It's Bluefaced Leicester Wool, which is delightfully different from Merino - it's got a dry, wooly hand, but is still really soft and comfortable.  If you've never worked with BFL, you've got to give it a try.

Check out the pattern in the new Knitty and on Ravelry.  

Happy knitting!

Pattern Info:

Finished Measurements
S (M, L)
to fit 7 (8, 9) in/18 (20.5, 23) cm hand circumference

Spincycle Yarns Dyed in the Wool (100% wool; 200yd/183m per 75g skein)
Color: Pussywillow; 2 skeins

23 sts/34 rows = 4" in stockinette stitch 
38 sts/28 rows = 4" in textured pattern stitch

Needles & Notions
* Needle Sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to obtain gauge. 

US #06/4mm needles for small circumference in the round

tapestry needle
stitch marker

work in the round, working textured stitch pattern (instructions given)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cowichan-Style Sweater Progress Part 3

I know you're all expecting a finished sweater and some excellent notes about how great and fast it was, but this is how far I got:

And then I really measured and admitted to myself that my gauge was too tight.  It's pretty embarrassing, (especially since I got so far), but that's how it goes.  I'd been measuring gauge all along by checking how many stitches were in two inches.  But I didn't check the overall fabric, which is, of course, much more accurate.  My rookie mistake left me a bit discouraged and it's taken me some time to decide how to proceed.  

Whenever I have a problem that requires starting over, I take the opportunity to re-evaluate the whole project.  Since I'm starting over anyway, I want to think it through one more time to make sure it's as amazing as possible.  

So, on the next iteration, I'm going to do a couple of things differently:
1. Obviously I'm going to work on a larger needle to get the gauge I got in my swatch and actually make a sweater the size I want.
2. After looking at a bunch of Cowichan sweaters, I've noticed that a lot of them don't have facings between the main body and the zipper.  I like that look, so I'm going to add some more stitches to the body and leave off the facings.

I'm still really excited about everything else going on with this sweater though.  I love the color work, and I think the pocket placement is going to work well.  (If you look closely at the photo above, you can see where I knit in some green waste yarn for adding the pockets at the end.)

The yarn is pretty delicate when it's not knit up (since it's spun loosely), so I'm a little nervous about tearing it out, but I think if I'm gentle, it'll work out fine.  Hopefully I'll have some actual progress to report in the next few weeks.

It's almost fall, and time to get knitting for the cooler weather!  If you're looking for some knitting camaraderie, there are a couple of fun knit alongs going on right now that I'm planning to participate in.  The Hazel Knits Ravelry group is hosting a cabled-themed KAL and Knit 'n Needle Yarn Shop is hosting a Dinar KAL.  I'm planning to knit me some Dinar's in Hazel Knits DK Lively in Low Tide, a color I've always adored, but haven't knit with before.  Join me for one or both of the KAL's!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bike Camping

Yesterday we took our bikes out for a spin to the Cowichan River.

The weather was perfect, so we had a great ride to the river.  Part of our route was on the Cowichan Valley Trail, which was beautiful, but a lot bumpier than what I'm used to.  (See my post about our ride on the Trail last winter.)  My bike is supposed to do fine on trails so I was surprised at how tense and uncomfortable I was.  It seemed like everything was bouncing around and kind of unstable.  When we got to the campsite and unloaded, I realized what was going on - my rack was missing a bolt!  On one side of the wheel it wasn't attached at all, and neither was my fender.  So a full and heavy pannier had just been bouncing around the whole ride!  Very fortunately, my husband was prepared and had a spare bolt.  

So this is a public service announcement: Always check your bolts before heading out on a trip and always bring a few spares, along with the tools to attach them, of course.  The ride home felt so much smoother and easier with my rack and fender actually secured in place.  

I also want to plug our new Ortlieb panniers.  I've been using mine around town for laundry and hauling stuff, but this was the first camping trip we took them on and they worked really well.  I very much appreciate how easy they are to get on and off the bike.  It makes loading and unloading so much faster than my old dry sack and bungee system.

We found a spot to camp near the river and had a nice afternoon knitting and relaxing.  After dinner and roasted marshmallows, though, we heard a loud rustling in the bushes.  It seemed too noisy for a deer, and sure enough, a bear poked its head out of the bushes!  It was the last thing I expected and he looked even more surprised to see us.  He turned around bolted back the way he came.  

photo from Wikipedia

I know there are bears around the island, and I wouldn't be so surprised to run into one on a trail or in the woods, but one being tempted enough to come to our campsite right before we were about to call it a night seemed like really bad news.  So we decided to pack it up and had a gorgeous evening bike ride.  

I think we'll try again next weekend.

RavelryGrayscaleButton2 InstagramGrayscaleButton2 TwitterGrayscaleButton2 PinterestGrayscaleButton2 FacebookGrayscaleButton2 MailGrayscaleButton2
 ©  2007-2012 Andrea