Hexiwhat?

For a few months, I’d been seeing mutterings on my Twitter feed about a Beekeeper’s Quilt.  People seemed really into it, but I never bothered reading further because I don’t really quilt.  Time passed, and I started seeing people going on about hexipuffs.  That made even less sense, but I was busy, so I let that go, too.  It wasn’t until I saw probably half a dozen tweets over half a day–some that mentioned both the Beekeeper’s Quilt and hexipuffs in the same breath–that I decided to google it.  (Does anyone else still trip out over the fact that google is a verb?)

That was my first mistake.  I should have known that if everyone was talking about it ad everyone was making it, starting to ask questions meant I was walking on a slippery slope.  I didn’t think about that, though, and was instantly enchanted by the idea.   Its really very simple: you knit approximately eleven million 3″ hexagons in the round, and then you stuff them with polyfill.  Once you’ve knit all eleven million, you tie them together into a warm, squishy, puffy quilt.

I didn’t really see any way I wasn’t going to start one, but I figured if I sat quietly on my hands for awhile (or worked on the test knit I’m supposed to be making) I would forget about it, or get distracted by something more interesting.

That was my second mistake, because there is possibly nothing in the world more delightful and interesting than hexipuffs.

My third mistake was tweeting about how resistance was probably futile because when I woke up the next morning, a friend had sent me the pattern as a gift and it was waiting in my Ravelry account.  I pretended to be virtuous and waited until that evening to give this hexipuff business a try.  I knit half the hexigon and decided it was close enough to gauge, then knit the rest.  For a minute or two, I contemplated not stuffing it, but part of the appeal of the blanket was its fluff factor.  I dug the polyfill out of the closet (What?  You don’t have a random bag of polyfill sitting around your closet?), stuffed the hexipuff and bound it off.  All told, it took maybe a half hour.

I held it up, squeezed it a little bit, examined it from a few different angles, smooshed it some more, and totally began to understand the noise that Stephanie made in her vlog about the project.  Squishing hexipuffs makes it really, really easy to want to make that sound.

And then I reached for the closest ball of sock yarn and cast on another.  I knew I was in real trouble when, at the end of the night, I had four hexipuffs and a little pouch to store the project in.

I think I’m up to about a dozen now, and its really, really hard to want to knit anything else.  I mean, what’s not to like.  You get to revisit the stash of partial skeins of sock yarn and play with all sorts of different colors.  A half hour, and you have a finished project, and when its cast off?  You get to squoosh it.  And here’s the thing about hexipuffs, the thing that possibly makes them the most dangerous: they get exponentially cuter the more there are.

Can you stand it?

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Appropo of nothing.

1. I am not even going to tell you how many pair of shoes I just shepherded out of the living room.  I may just be the worst housekeeper on the planet.  The yarn, at least, has stayed more or less in its proper place (which is to say, tucked into every nook and cranny but not tossed on every flat surface) for the better part of two weeks.  I think that’s pretty impressive.  It may be because…

2. I’ve been occupied with learning to knit intarsia (why did I think it would be hard?) and working almost exclusively on Stephen West’s mystery shawl.  I have no idea what’s going to happen when its finished.

I’m pretty smitten with knitting it, but the colors aren’t me.  I knew that going in, but was set on working with yarn from my stash and not using the pattern as an excuse to buy more.  (I think that’s also pretty impressive.)  I have two days to knit 8 really long rows before the last clue comes out, I don’t see that happening, but I’m going to give it a go.

3.  I’m 30 years old and just two weeks ago learned to touch my toes.  I am not kidding.  Never been able to do it until now.  A few tricks taught in a yoga class combined with something a friend said about it a few months ago finally clicked, and I am not unreasonably happy about my new party trick.

4. My favorite band is playing in my favorite city for my favorite holiday and I can’t work out any reasonable way to justify going.

5.  So far, the solution I’m most strongly considering is registering for the Marine Corp 10k, thus eliminating the possibility of traveling over Halloween weekend.  This is absurd for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that 10k is exactly twice as far as I’ve ever run, followed closely by the fact that I’ve been out running maybe three times in the past year, and also the fact that I don’t really even like running–I just do it because I’d rather be outside listening to music than exercising indoors.  Still, I’ve found myself opening and closing the website a lot over the past two weeks and thinking things like, “Its only six miles, and its not for two months…..”

Its the pictures that get me.

I spend a lot of time knitting, and then I compose blog posts about it in my head.  When it comes time to take pictures, though, I get hung up.  The light isn’t good.  The camera battery needs to be charged.  I can’t find the cable.  I’m not capturing the colors properly.  There is always an excuse, and a lack of pictures seems to be the reason that I can’t get fresh content onto the blog more than once a month.  So, with apologies for the bad photography, here are some things that have been keeping me busy:

This sweater (Green is the New Black) is nearly finished.  I need to do applied i-cord down the fronts and across the bottom (which means I first need to learn how to make applied i-cord), and seam the sleeves.  I might actually get to wear this a little before it gets to be too warm.

It seems counter-intuitive to call socks that are this brightly colored “plain vanilla,” but that’s really all they are.  The yarn is Scarlett O’Hara, a merino/bamboo blend from Yarn Love, and the colorway is Gala.  It was perfect for knitting during the dreary winter.

I’ve also finished knitting an Ishbel from Three Irish Girls Adorn sock yarn.  I could have easily made it larger with the single skein of yarn I was using, but I didn’t figure that out until it was too late.  I am always afraid I’ll run out of yarn.

The color here is much more accurate:

 

Elsewhere on the internet, I’ve been having lots of fun with the 30 Days of Lists project.  Making lists is much less intimidating than writing paragraphs, and lists seem like something that can be photographed with my cellphone.

Yes, Virginia….

A week ago, I finished all of the Christmas knitting I had planned for the year.  I was done.  Finis. But then, there was a whole week left, and a half a skein of handspun yarn left over from a cowl, and apparently I couldn’t stand the thought of not knitting right up until the bitter end.  The next thing I knew, I found myself saying to a friend, “I bet I still have time to knit a hat,” and they were saying, “I bet you can!” and so I cast on.  I’m knitting top down because I didn’t want to have to worry about gauge, and it was a much better plan before I realized that I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to stop increasing and just start knitting straight down.  It seems like it should be obvious if you just try it on, but the details of hats and ease escape me.  (If you don’t knit, ignore those last two sentences.)  I think I have it sorted, and despite having almost no time at all to work on it this week, I’ve found myself at the bottom ribbing, which means I only have two more inches to go and probably I won’t have to wrap up a hat that’s still on the needles.

Given that, I should probably not be typing.  Here.  You read.  I’ll knit.  Happy Christmas!

Lest You Think I Know What I Am Doing

Three sweaters.  Something wrong with each of them.

Abalone, the sweater at the bottom, has been bound off no less than three times.  I must have done something wrong when I was picking up stitches to put a border around the edges because all of my bind-offs were too inelastic to allow it to drape properly.  Even when I used the bind off called for in the pattern.  (It was an i-cord bind off.  It took two hours to do.  Ripping it out was painful.)  Even when I bound off with a needle two sizes larger than the one I had knit with.  In the end, I used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bind off, and it seems to be light and elastic enough that it if I block the sweater, it might lay properly.  Then again, I might have to rip out the bind off and all 16 rows of edging and do it all over again.

Goodale, the crazy colored sweater at the top right, came together swimmingly.  Then I got to the end and decided to do the finishing My Way instead of following the pattern instructions.  Bad move.  My Way totally misunderstood the way the sweater was going to lay when it was on a body versus on a blocking board.  Seams were pulled out, the iron was involved, and after a few hours, it seems to be back in order.  Now, its just needs a button, but it was pretty touch-and-go last night.

And the orange sweater.  That’s Coraline, and I’ve been working on it for nearly a year, and it is going to be my undoing.  I have fought with that sweater every. single. step. of the way, from swatching and getting gauge to finding the right needle to basic counting to figuring out how to smock to the bloody frelling short rows that are tripping me up now.  Something has Gone Wrong with the stitch count and I don’t know if its a product of the smocking or the short rows or of incorporating the two together, but its a mess.  Its starting to get cool again, and I really would like to wear the sweater, though, so sooner than later, I am going to have to suck it up and figure out what’s happening and what to do about it.  The sweater has been sitting for most of the summer, long enough that I’ve forgotten how tedious the yoke was to knit, so if I need to, I might be able to find it in myself to rip that whole bit out and start over.

For now, though, I have three sweaters (three!) that have managed to go awry, and I thought you should know…..Just in case you were under the impression that I had a handle on this whole knitting thing.

Summer in Fast Forward

It feels, as usual, like we’re careening through the year, and its moving too fast to keep up with.

My nephew turned one at the end of June…….

And enjoyed his birthday cake in the way that only babies can.

Never ones to do things half way, his parents gave him an entire ear of the cake–not because there was any danger of him eating much of it, but because it was more fun to play with.  Black icing maybe wasn’t the most charming idea, but he sure did have a good time!  (Shockingly little of the cake wound up on the floor, and probably about as little went in to his mouth.)

Jason and I celebrated our fourth anniversary at a Bed & Breakfast in Oxford, so that we could be in the area for Jerry’s birthday party.  The building was a Victorian mansion that dates to 1875, and it was just spectacular.  I wish I had made time to talk to the folks who run it and learn more about its history.

We went kayaking on the Tred Avon river, and explored Oxford and found the house where I lived when I was very young and my father was the foreman at one of the shipyards there.  We tromped around St. Michaels and were surprised by how much it is starting to change.  And we sat on the lawn and the porches and marveled at how lovely and peaceful it was.  (The rest of the photos are here.)

There has been lots and lots of knitting and spinning, but not a lot of my taking pictures of it.  I finished spinning a braid of alcapa sometime back in June.  In a way, this was a big victory.  The fiber had been sitting in my stash for a year because the first time I tried to spin it, it just pulled apart and turned in to a whole lot of nothing.  It was great to realize that I have enough experience to work with it now.  On the other hand, it made me realize how spoiled working with a wheel has made me.  This was spin on a drop spindle and plied on a wheel, and it felt like it took forever to spin.

Its dyed by Sanguine Gryphon, and the color is Walden.  About 200 yards, maybe a little less, spun at something that averages out to worsted weight, although its pretty inconsistent.

I finally got around to blocking a baby sweater, and its just darling.

Its a short sleeved variation of Helena, knit in Three Irish Girls Kells sport merino, in the colorway Georgia Peach.

I finished a mini-Clapotis and I love it.  Everyone involved in the online knitting community has at least glimpsed Kate Gilbert’s pattern, and after knitting one, I understand why it went viral.  Its a great pattern–just enough variety to keep it interesting, but simple enough that you aren’t constantly referencing a pattern, and the finished product looks great.  There is a least one more, larger version in my future.  Maybe more.  I think the pattern is just perfect for handpainted yarns.

The yarn is Three Irish Girls Springvale Sport (which feels thinner than sport weight to me, but that’s probably just because the twist is so firm that it doesn’t squoosh down the way other sport weight yarns I’ve used have done), in the Cherry Blossom colorway.  It really does remind me of DC in the spring.

There is more–vests and sweaters and socks that I didn’t mean to be knitting, but I think I’ll save them for their own post.

Can’t type. Busy knitting.

Really, I am.  Despite radio silence, there are things happening with yarn.

There was my Ravelympics shawl, which I finished back at the end of February.  Its still a little curled at the top edge and the bottom isn’t as open as it should be.  I need to block it, but I haven’t managed to take it off long enough to do that.

The pattern is Little Colonnade by Stephen West.  The yarn is Kells Sport Merino from Three Irish Girls, in Sheepn…, a colorway dyed specially for the 3IG Ravelympics team, inspired by a picture of a big, shaggy sheep.

There is also a nearly finished baby sweater, but it is a gift and sort of a secret, so I’m not going to show it off here.

I’m modifying the Pyroclastic pattern from Knitty to be a smaller size with fewer repeats, but haven’t taken pictures of the single finished sock.

I’m also test knitting an fantastic leafy lace shawl for a Ravelry friend in some wool/bamboo laceweight yarn.  Its been bumpy going but I’m finally halfway through the set-up chart and it looks like it should work out this time.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a crochet hook for the first time and made a cuddly Cthulhu for a friend’s birthday.

He isn’t perfect, but for my first crocheted critter and something made on a whim, I think he’s pretty great.  I love his wee wings, and the fact that the pattern had instructions labeled “tentacle round!”  The yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino, left over from a hat and scarf set I made for a friend, and Jason chose the button eyes from my grandmother’s button box.  I probably would have gone with black or navy blue, but the glowing red adds a nice touch.  If I made another Cthulhu, I’d crochet at a tighter gauge (I knew that going in, but didn’t have any hooks between this size and lace size) and weight the bottom so that he stands more easily on his own.

Lastly, this unimpressive pile of orange stockinette……

…has become an even larger pile of unimpressive stockinette, including the bottom third of a sweater body and two three-quarter length sleeves, all of which will soon be joined together so that I can knit the smocked top and finally be finished with the stockinette death march.  The next time I decide to knit an adult sized sweater on 2.75 mm needles, someone please suggest that maybe its not a good idea.  I’m excited to see how it comes together, though!  Pity I’ll be finishing it just in time for warm weather.

Snow and wool.

In the DC area, it has been snowing.

It started on Friday.  The school closed for the afternoon, so I was home, watching it fall.  It snowed all night and all day Saturday, piling up until about 5:30 in the evening.

We were lucky enough to keep our power through the whole storm (save for a 5 minute outage not an hour after it started that resulted in half my hall standing outside their doors talking about how it didn’t bode well), and so I watched bad TV and movies, followed the Twitter feeds, and knit.

More

Finally.

After all sorts of frustration, I broke down and bought a new needle and was able to start my Coraline sweater.  Right now, it looks like a whole lot of nothing:

It was kind of exciting at first.  The alpaca silk was soft and lovely, and it began with a provisional cast on that very cleverly created a hem when it was pulled out and the live stitches worked with the current stitches.  (The live stitches just hanging there all nakedlike freaked me out a little, and it felt like hard core knitting.)  Slipping the first three stitches of every row also seems very clever, and makes a nice, clean edging that reminds me of icord.

Since then, the novelty has started to wear off.  The yarn is splitty.  Really splitty.  What that means is that even though I’m at the point in the pattern that says something like, “Knit in stocking stitch forever,” I have to actually pay attention to what I’m doing.  If I just mindlessly knit, I’m certain to split a stitch in half, or at least catch a few fibers that I wasn’t meant to.  Also, all the purling is slooooow.  The whole thing is slow, really.  I’m not sure why I expected differently from a sweater knit across 200ish stitches on 3 mm needles.

Needless to say, I’m not loving the actual knitting right now, but I’m still super excited to have the finished project.  Now if I can just finish it before the weather warms up again……

This is why we swatch.

See this?

Looks reasonably unassuming, doesn’t it?  It is roughly one half of a mitten, knit all the way through the thumb gusset, with a few rounds knit past where the thumb stitches are put on scrap yarn to wait for a thumb to be knit.  I was trying to make a pair of Mrs. Roosevelt’s mittens out of some Three Irish Girls’ Springvale Sport, a club offering from this past spring.  (The color is Cherryblossom.  Isn’t it pretty?)

The pattern called for sport weight yarn, and the gauge listed was 24 sts/36 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch in the round.  I grabbed the needles I usually use to knit socks from sport weight yarn, which are labeled as US2s, but which I have recently discovered are actually closer to 3.25 mm than 3 mm.  So, yeah.  Big size 2s.  I should have stopped to think about how the Springvale Sport is kind of a thin sport weight yarn, and even the thicker yarns have knit up a little loosely on those needles, but no.  I cast on, thinking that certainly I didn’t need to knit that yarn on size 1s, and merrily knit away.

I realized partway through the cuff that maybe the fabric wasn’t as dense as I would like, but I tried them on and they seemed to fit okay.  They were a little large, but I have slender wrists and small hands and they weren’t for me, so I knit on through the cuff and into the thumb gusset.  I was starting to get seriously dubious about the fabric, and wondering if the mittens would even be warm, but I kept on going, straight through the end of The Sound of Music, finishing the gusset and moving the thumb stitches to scrap yarn and knitting even a few more rows before I finally admitted it.  The mittens were big.  Really big.  Way too big for any reasonable hand to fit in to.

I mean, seriously, what is that?  Like, two inches of extra fabric there on the left of my hand?  Ridiculous.

I let the mitten sit for a day to think about how it had let me down, and then I fully admitted defeat.  In case you were curious, this is what five hours of wasted time looks like:

I’m going to knit a sweater soon, and this time I’m playing by the rules.  My swatch has been washed, and its pinned out and drying on the dining room table.

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