Not mittens for kittens

I finally knit a pair of mittens for myself.

The pattern is The World’s Simplest Mittens and they are, but perhaps not yet a go-to, never-fail, can knit it in my sleep pattern for me.

I spun the yarn last summer from fibery odds and ends acquired mostly from the NJ wool fest – some of it was an ounce or so pity purchase, much of it came from $1 or so an ounce grab bags containing matted bits of roving, second cuts, and all around mystery fiber both happy and nasty – it’s likely about 60% alpaca and 40% sheep – the most common breeds around here are Romney and Jacob.

Something went wrong in my weights and measures department because I thought I had over 8 ounces of fiber, but ended up with around 160 yards of yarn – granted, it’s a 3-ply and I wanted a thick, denser yarn – and I got that, but not too dense that it was painful to knit – and apparently I’m too lazy or forgetful to weigh my mittens, so we’ll just say that these took much or many beast/s. And the yarn was mostly fun to spin – just when I was annoyed with some rough and sticky or filthy stuff, I hit some angelic alpaca – and it transformed into a plump beaut after its first bath.

I spun the yarn for mittens or slippers and decided on mittens since I’d yet to make some for myself, and commercially made “warm” mittens often aren’t – or they’re too expensive and poor-fitting for me.

I cast-on for an adult medium (fearing that it might be too small) in worsted because I usually wear men’s gloves or largest women’s (I did a provisional CO so I could later pick up and knit the cuffs down in case my yarn ran short) and I wanted them to be dense – the yarn was more of a bulky weight.

And they were way too big. Part of that was a brain fart on my part – I was doing the thumb gusset as a Kf&b since the fuzzy yarn wouldn’t show the less neat increase as much, but I forgot that makes an extra stitch between the markers, so I ripped back and did a M1R and M1L like I should have in the first place, thinking the too-bigness was mostly due to the too-much-thumbness.

But ass that I can be, I kept knitting when I could tell that they were still too big. I justified this with the intention to line them with old cashmere sweater scraps and/or felt them a bit. But… the fit seemed slightly short. I started the the decreases after I’d cleared my little finger like I do with my little toe when making socks (and interestingly both are a little over 1 1/4 inches in difference) but this mitten decrease is faster than the toe one I use, so I added a knit every other row once I was a few rows in. Either the whole thing should be knit every other row, or I should wait until the cuticle of the next finger from the end to decrease.

My hand isn’t in the right place and my fingers look more aligned than they are, but I’ve got at least an inch or more of width I don’t need – if I knit them again, I’d take off at least 4 stitches. The other issue I’ve always got with mitts and now mittens, is the that palms are never long enough, so I automatically always add at least 4 or 5 rows, maybe at least an inch or so before starting the thumb gusset.

Then there’s the issue of the pointy tops. I don’t like perfectly rounded mitten tops because my middle finger does poke up (in its resting state, not just when gesturing), and I don’t love the sharply-pointed tops you see on some colorwork mittens – so by adding a few knit rows my tops are more of a relaxed point, but if I cup my hands, I still get a pointy nubbin.

That looks like a rooster beak.

And I don’t want to mix my wool and poultry – I’m a little grossed out by the thumb gusset that resembles a chicken leg even though I’m sure it’s a more practical one – and really this might be the pattern I should try next…

But back to my current mitten bitchin’ – this combo of pointy top and side thumbs (not left or right specific) does not work. I knew this going into it – I’ve made several fingerless mitts and the side thumb is fine for a plain top. But one pair I made has a singular design element that twists in when the thumb tucks toward the palm – and the decrease lines of the top twist in toward the palm. So to correct this, either the thumb needs to be left and right specific and needs to be in more, or the pointy decrease needs to happen in more, or the top should have more spaced out decreases so it can spin a bit (though I don’t like the ones that align and end up a bit pinwheeled)…

But whatever, I knew the risks but I wanted mittens quick.

So I’m a little concerned about loosing length if I felted them, and they aren’t as itchy and in immediate need of a lining as I thought they might be, and figured I needed to test drive them first to find out how water and wind tight they were on their own and maybe I needed to do nothing and I had arctic-ready hand protection and I just needed to wait for next winter (or clean out the freezer) to test them out.

Then we had a nor’easter with not-too-much precipitation but way too much wind, and our power was knocked out for 4 days – a bone-chilling, smelly (no water either), very long four days. And the sun came out and it was in the 40s in the day and I still couldn’t get warm – even the dog wanted under the blankets. So the mittens got their test – and failed – the wind still comes through a bit and they are stretching out a little too, so rather than re-knit them, a lining and a little bit of felting should do the trick – or at least improve them enough.

And wearing them made me think of street festivals in the 1990s with Central and South American flute players and hand-knit goods and crystals and shit and I had a very strong suspicion that perhaps I already once owned some hand-knit rustic alpaca mittens…

But I think I was thinking of these – that have seemed to have gone AWOL…

And in the end, I don’t think I need a solid-go-to vanilla mitten pattern like I have with socks – I don’t really need or want another pair of knitted mittens soon (have thoughts of sewing a pair anyway) though perhaps I do need one for fingerless mitts since I wear those very frequently and always have to scramble around a bit to determine stitch counts and whatnot.

For now though, I’m just hoping we’ll have power while another storm is upon us…

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under knitting, spinning

Shetland blues

For the last decade or so, I’ve been buying damaged Shetland sweaters from thrift stores. They had to be misshapen and/or slightly felted and/or have holes – basically unwearable at least not without significant repair.

Most of them are from the late 1970s to early 1990s and in most cases, the colors happen to be ones I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear or knit by themselves. But I finally amassed around a dozen (not pictured are some more blues, pinks, and greys) and originally I thought I’d knit a giant hap shawl/blanket, perhaps some colorwork accessories, and maybe a Spencer dress

And I bought one that was in quite good condition that I kept to wear as-is.

I love the slogan: “Wool, it’s got life.”

But then I used it in my failed MFA portfolio.

(That patch is easily removed, I just haven’t done it yet. And it’s probably not work-appropriate as it is. And my workplace is hostile and discriminatory towards sweaters – it’s been near 80F in there all winter and I’m reduced to t-shirts which is absolutely obscene in the wintertime and crushing my sweater-loving soul, but I digress…)

But this was the first project that I finally started to use my freshly harvested old Shetland sweater yarn.

The absolute best thing about this Shetland yarn is that it is all the same 2-ply weight (or close enough) brand to brand, decade to decade so it is all freaky great for anything – colorwork especially – so it’s not just another one-off for the scrappy stash. And I haven’t tested it yet, but it is probably the equivalent to, and/or would pair well with, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift yarn.

That patch above obviously used very little yarn, and I was left with quite a bit, yet not much of one individual color from this stripey sweater. (Stripey sweaters are also part of my thrift sweater collecting policy since they do make for great scrappy projects, but this one was happily the same good old Shetland yarn, only it is fairly recent – from the middle aughts most likely).

Recently my mom got new glasses and requested a new (small, more like a kerchief) scarf with blue in it. My stash only had some bulky blue earmarked for another project and some sock yarn with blues, but they seemed a little too crayon-cartoonish. I think buying something was out of the question at the time since I would have had to wait for it to arrive in the mail and/or I’d have been tempted to buy roving instead and spin something, but that would take too long… And I am stash-busting, but do make exceptions for gifts, but I don’t have a solid LYS nearby to pop into and know I could get something appropriate for a fair price (and without attitude).

So I hit the Shetland stash – enough with hanging on to the thoughts of big haps and whatnot – there is still plenty of yarn for that anyway. And I absolutely required a mindless pattern – something I could knit as quickly as I can (which isn’t that fast these days) with near zero risk of frogging and restarting. My mom liked the triangular shape of the Lacy Baktus I made for her a few years ago, and I like the the shape of a slightly asymmetric side-to-side triangle, and that is also the most forgiving for judging yarn amounts, or rather, you don’t need to worry about it at all, just stop when you’re out (the Batkus is my all-time favorite, but there will be a day I’m sure, that I will run out of yarn at the very tip).

And Clara Falk’s Tailwind shawl pretty much fit the bill. I liked that she used an icord edge to hide the yarn tails and wanted to try it out – I liked the icord edge on my Paris Toujours, but it was more of a shallow slip thing that smoothed the end rather than a tube that would successfully entomb loose ends.

And I also wanted to use up most of the blue stripey stuff, but I figured I wouldn’t have enough once the stripes grew long, so I added a purple, navy, and denim-y colored sweater to the mix. The only solid color, a cobalt blue, was from the collar, cuffs, and waistband of the stripey sweater, so I had a safe amount of that one.

I held the yarns doubled in order to get a better gradient and to plump up the weight. I used US9 needles, but probably could have gotten away with 10s – this stuff is so bloomy.

(The semi-felted sweaters can be a bit of a bitch to unravel, but the Shetland is fairly strong and can withstand some tugging, so even though the stripey sweater in particular was at least 3 sizes smaller than what it was originally, I had minimal breakage. Out of the dozen or so of these sweaters, I’ve only given up unraveling one of them, and will use it for mitten linings and such instead.)

I hemmed and hawed through the whole thing about the colors – I don’t like light blues, and I’m always a little ambivalent about knitting with colors that aren’t ones I love – but they had their purpose in making the grade.

But the gradient wasn’t always working for me – perhaps that knitting trend is out, or on the way out, or maybe still peaking? But now it’s done with gorgeous multi-toned, perhaps a little speckled yarn not in early ’80s colors that were meant to be worn with too-stiff, too-high waisted jeans and ivory corduroy pants. And maybe because it was too consistent? I think that is my issue – it’s too regimented: 10 rows of one, ten of another, 10 of another, 10, 10, 10, 10… It needed something to break up the monotony, a wave or another angle, or different stripe thicknesses…

But that isn’t for me to ponder anymore since it’s my mom’s now, and as a scarf/shawl it is spot-on: crazy warm, sheepy yet drapey, and able to be worn in several ways.

And uh, yeah, it’s not a small kercheif like thing that can be tucked under the coat…

Maybe next year, okay ma?

***

And the final verdict on the pattern is that it is a good one – the icord edge totally encased the ends (though perhaps I wouldn’t trust it as much with a non-sticky yarn). My only minor quibble is that edge isn’t quite as stretchy as I’d like, but keeping it loose when knitting helps – I think the pattern mentions to pull it tightly, but I would recommend the opposite. And then I did the icord bind off with US10.5 needles, and that was perfect – there’s about equal give on both ends. I blocked it slightly longer, but it didn’t really need to be shaped much, though the soak made the yarn bloom a little again and erase any final kinks from unraveling.

4 Comments

Filed under collecting, knitting, recycling, thrifting

Feb finds

Winter went away for a few days a week ago and suddenly it was mud season.

And m&*#$*^%)#**&&$%&$!!!!! TICK season.

And of course, it’s always deer season…

early feb phil (2)

And our yard smells like a barnyard, and the dog loves to eat the poop and lick our faces, and all of our recently planted deer-resistant shrubs still need ugly cages to protect them from being “sampled” to death, and…

early feb phil (2) - detail

See that open, spilled-out compost bin in the back?

That is not ours.

I really like our neighbors – great people – but we’ll never be able to discourage the gathering of beasts in our yard while open compost and birdseed left on the ground happens just over the border…

But that’s why we had to fence in our garden and compost piles. And once again it’s time to think about the garden again – some seeds were saved and are ready to go, a few more are on order. Something went wrong with our seed starting last year – more like a few somethings, so more attention and care (and documentation) need to happen this year.

Everything out there is frozen again, and that’s okay – I’m not ready for the growing demands just yet.

I’m still officially cold-sheeping and generally frugal, but I can’t resist the pull of the thrift store entirely – and it’s paid off well in the last week or two. I found some good yarn on the cheap – the thrift yarn in my area is usually the nastier acrylics or something decent but way overpriced – and I’m itching to knit up big scrappy things, so it all fits in my collecting policy as well.

And then I had one of those rare, serendipitous, delicious scores…

Around the time I first moved out here, I was having a thrift pick-me-up and found a hooded wool duster/cardigan (with pockets!) from a pricey brand of shapeless and mildly dumpy clothes (that are now becoming quite appealing to me as middle age ascends…) but it was priced out of my range – maybe something like $16? Which I would consider if it was something I could wear for work or was very well made, but I wanted it for lounge wear, a robe of sorts – and I’ve already got several oversized sweaters in the name of comfort. So I passed it up, and I regretted doing that (and I might have gone back for it?).

early feb phil (3)

And then around four years later, it is mine. For about $3.

Is it the same one? It very likely could be…

Was it involved in a violent knife attack? Perhaps… or maybe a spray of gunfire?

I saw one of the holes when I picked it up, but it didn’t matter – I loved it more for its imperfections – and I didn’t bother to inspect it at any great length apart from eyeballing if the shoulders would fit me. But when I pulled it out of the wash, I finally saw that it was full of holes a couple of sizes larger than the US’s largest coin.

It’s a slight shame – the fit is so perfect – loose but amazingly not too frumpy – so it could be public wear, but my mending might not cut it for more polished needs. The placement of the holes is random, yet spaced out enough so some interesting embroidery or patches of some sort could look really good, but for now unraveling is mitigated and it’s oh so comfortable…

 

5 Comments

Filed under collecting, thrifting

What happened to the month…?

Yeah, apparently time is flying.

Work, some play, and still too short days…

I’m trying to get as much spinning in as I can – it’s a wintertime activity for me – the movement keeps me warm and my hand’s aren’t sticking to the wool – although they’re very dry and sandpapery at times and snag the stuff too.

I finished the Jacob gradient and finally got a good rhythm for chain-plying. I spun it from light to dark, and the light is a fairly piss-poor yarn, but the darkest is fairly decent, so much more practice is in order, but I’m not sure how often I’ll choose this kind of ply…

The new Jacob yarn was supposed to become a medium-ish poncho, but I haven’t swatched it yet – the yardage and weight are both less than I thought they would be, but maybe it will work? Otherwise I keep looking at vest-things, but I don’t wear the one I made that often.

But no sooner was that off the wheel than I started a fun spin.

It’s a kitchen sink deal with a bunch of natural wool in greys and browns and a bit of dyed stuff in blues and teals with a touch of yellow and white. There’s a little more Jacob, but mostly Romney, Gotland, unregistered “Silkwool,” and a little Mohair, Merino, Angora, and mystery stuff. It must end up a sweater quantity, and I’m pretty sure I have to up the teal percentage a bit more and hit the stash for a few more ounces for insurance purposes, but I’m about 25% there.

And actually, this wasn’t the next spin after the gradient – I sampled the black alpaca, and decided that I can’t/don’t want to spin it in the raw and must send it out to be processed into roving or batts – I can’t/don’t want to hand card more than a few ounces here and there. If anyone has recommendations for a reasonable alpaca processor in the US, let me know!

Current knitting is still the same as before, and sewing has still been more mending than making.

Though there was one recently sewn hat with my first pompom, and became the first item where I actually used a pompom.

Otherwise, I’m trying not to be on this machine much and have been burned by a recent online sale – a buyer publicly accused me of sewing fancy labels on cheap sweaters all because she bought one from me that was “too itchy” and wanted to return it when I didn’t accept returns – and it was a handknit Irish sweater with a rustic wool tweed yarn made in one of those crafty co-op deals (and certainly not a recognized “fancy” label) that I priced at only $9.99 forfuckssakes…

People suck.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Undoings…

Apparently, I’ve got a history of pulling out long-suffering undone projects this time of year.

This braided rug was one of my early publicly declared UFOs – I thought I’d started it earlier than I said then, but I remember the hours I spent cutting and braiding and sneezing in my old work room, and where it sat in various-sized balls and braids gathering dust in an old, but not interesting old, plastic milk crate.

Then I vaguely remember evaluating it a few years ago, deciding I wanted a black center and it had to have green, but I have no memory of cutting and braiding even more – likely more than I’d done the first time around. I guess I finally felt like I had enough snake braid then, and started to sew it (slowly and painfully I recall).

And I got it out once more when I finally scored a zigzag sewing machine, but the distance between the zig and the zag is too narrow, so my thoughts of finally finishing it on a machine went poof. (Though if I’d found another machine with a wider swath of zigging and zagging I’d be back in business.)

Now, we no longer have a need for another rug, though there are a few spaces where one would fit better than a large plastic shopping bag with a heavy round object that is far bigger than a sport ball, but smaller than one of those sitting balls, and the removal of said unwieldy bag of pre-rug would free up space for folded batting or a wine-case sized box.

So once more, I hauled it out, determined to finish it for good.

But I have no desire to continue to sew it together, and I don’t really like it.

But I’d wanted some more tarn to make containers or something, and the new bath could use a rug, or at least a new absorbent black bathmat… so I started to unbraid it…

And now it’s back in its shopping bag – unbraiding apparently takes me about 73% as much time as braiding it, and it’s still sneezy.

I’m thinking that it’s possible I just might have a lifetime supply of tomato ties instead…

Leave a comment

Filed under home decor, recycling, sewing

Randomly, at the very end of the year

As usual, I stay away from too much reflection (remorse?) of the past year, and resolution-making for the new year.

View this post on Instagram

Yep, that just about sums things up… #2017bestnine

A post shared by astitchmatism (@astitchmatism) on

I have a few things in mind with a fairly strong commitment to finish or frog, several small house projects that still need to be wrapped up (I’m still looking at you, you bastard threshold!), but things will start growing again, and it will all be a busy blur once more.

I haven’t been sewing much recently except for a few minor clothing repairs/alterations. For the past couple of years I’ve also been drawn to hand-pieced things, but the bigger reality is that up until yesterday all but one (the one I keep ready for repairs) of my sewing machines were on time-outs which usually magically fixes them, but my luck finally ran out on that practice. (I’ve also had the on again, off again issue of work space, but that’s usually my own messy fault, and/or access issues for home repair.)

So though I intended on working on the long-ignored quilt above yesterday, I set up one machine, sewed three inches, got a snarling bobbin tangle, got out another and got another thready mess, got out another and forgot it needed a serious greasing instead of a little oil and also couldn’t find the spool pin I just found again for it, thought about checking out another, but it was two floors up and in a closet, and didn’t bother getting out the other two that need to be re-wired.

So I took a nap.

But it was a quick one, and I spent the next hour or two cleaning, oiling, and futzing with the goddamn tension to get it to behave. It’s still not great, but it’s mostly holding two pieces of fabric together now.

I hope to finish the quilt? It has a few weird memories from the last time I spend a good chunk of time on it, I really hate the quilting part of quilts – at least big ones, and it doesn’t really go with our decor so to speak, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it (provided the machines behave) and as an amalgam of stuff, it will easier to store and of course use, as a finished thing. So we’ll see.

And I don’t really need to buy any yarn again this year – I’m still spinning the last of a big wad of Jacob – and perhaps finally got a good chain-plying action going on. The only new yarn I might shop around for is reflective stuff.

I knit up this hat out of Red Heart for N. It’s not warm enough, it felt gross (though soft) to knit, and I’m dubious the wear will make it worthwhile for hand work. But he walks the dog in the dawn dark and we walk on country roads, so we need things with a ramped up visibility factor. I also have a spool of the reflective filament that can be held with any yarn too, but it was a little pricey I think, and/or the yarn was cheaper- I can’t remember now, and I think I was concerned about yarn dominance and loosing the thread in something wooly, so then I need to experiment with using it in duplicate stitch or as embroidery… something along those lines. And I’m also playing with some ideas for using it on dog accessories.

Has anyone else worked with this stuff?

And then I’m still finding myself drawn to miniature stuff – I’m oddly mildly traumatized by home renovations/repairs these days, so maybe it’s a psychological thing in that I  actually want to feel in control and spend almost nothing (but time) on a renovation project, even if it is just my childhood dollhouse to get over it?

Eh, we’ll see on that one too –

Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Filed under collecting, knitting, quilts, sewing, spinning

Randomly, near the end of another year

I’ve been trying to feed a few thoughts to bulk them up for a bit more substance – so I can chew on them for a bit, but all of the social and political static and noise has been throwing off my appetite.

The house has been up to its unpleasant hijinx again as well – the boiler finally shat the bed, and gave us a couple of cold weeks followed by a couple of long days with the plumber followed by a much thinner wallet. And then my docile old car got a whiff of the spirits and acted out unexpectedly, but at least not too extremely…

But the silver lining that really isn’t, is that I was already in the middle of another round of selling off shit online. I’m now unburdened of a few more pounds of old art supplies and bulky thrift sweaters that would have made lovely yarn once unraveled, but that were still in perfectly good wearable shape. And I feel better about that too – yes, I feel better about getting a few extra dollars when I need them, but I sometimes feel guilty about unraveling perfectly good sweaters and usually just try do it to ones that are already damaged or misshapen. I’ll miss a few of these – more accurately, I’ll miss the cardigans and bulky pullovers that they would have been re-knit into and became my favorites, but only existed in my brain and likely would have never come close to fruition – so I can’t really miss something that never was and would likely never be, right?

But I still have plenty in the rougue’s gallery of moth-eaten and slightly felted/fulled – all are of varying degrees of unpleasant to unravel, but all will be more truly “rescued” and recycled. I started a new gradient shawl out of a striped Shetland sweater and a few others in greys and purples (it’s not really yellowy-beige as seen above) and it’s a fun little sheepy finger journey right now.

(Other things on the needles have been on them for a bit and have already shown themselves here.)

A good amount of mending has been going on in these parts too – old wool socks that refuse to give up the ghost, outdoor wear that seeks out every thorn, and our beloved wool underthings that wear like iron until they pop an inexplicable hole.

And disappointingly, one of my top wool underthings companies is going under itself. Most of my most worn t-shirts are wool – the non-sport cuts are nice enough to wear where I work and then they can do double-duty under sweaters in the winter or on the trail – I could get by with a minimalist wardrobe with them if I was in to that kind of thing (but when traveling I do). And I pretty much need a layer of sheep’s clothing over most of my body surface once it drops below 75F. And the clothes were largely made in the USA, and pretty much the only things I bought (or received) new (on sale) once a year or so. I really like another company’s wool shirts that are 100% USA wool and manufactured, but their selection is more limited and I’ve sadly had two shrink to crop tops. I am too long-trunked for crop tops.

So ’tis the season for being a little more bummed out (and broke) than usual, but at least the solstice is soon and the ho ho hoing bullshit will go away soon too…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under hiking, home, knitting, recycling, thrifting