Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I’ve officially gone insane.  This might just be the millionth time I’ve said that on this blog.  Today, I’m specifically talking about the slight obsession I’ve had with Rosemary Hill’s shawl patterns.  Remember me talking about working on them in my last post?  I had finished Bitterroot and was working on Brandywine.  Well, I finished the Brandywine shawl on Sept 5th.  It was started on August 31st!!!! And the shawl I’m working on now?  Merope by Rosemary Hill. 

The only modification I did on the Brandywine pattern was work 16 repeats of Chart B instead of 15.  Actually, that modification would have really messed me up if I didn’t have another skein of the same yarn hanging around.  For the last 5 stitches, I had to do a russian join with leftover cast on tail.  Luckily, I did have 2 skeins of the yarn so I wasn’t stressing too much. 

For the Brandywine, I used Kraemer Yarns’s Sterling Silk & Silver in a royal blue that has slight flecks of silver in it.  Most of the time yarns that have metallic or angelina in them makes for a scratchy yarn.  This stuff I could definitely imagine making socks with it though you would hide away all of the pretty sparkle in your shoes. 

Do you want to hear about the next shawl?  I’ve known that I wanted to knit Merope ever since it was first released.  I absolutely loved everything about the shawl.  The little eyelets in the middle of the shawl and the diamond design on the sides really sparked my interest.  A couple of days ago, when I read the story behind the shawl, I knew the Sterling Silk and Silver yarn would be perfect for it.  The silver looks like stars on a night sky. 

This shawl was started on September 4th and today, September 7th, I’m 1.5 rows and a bind off away from being finished!!!!  It’s a little bit insane how quickly these shawls have been going.  It’s not even as if all I’ve done is knit this weekend.  I’d say that I’ve devoted pretty much the same amount of time to them as I normally would during a week.  I guess when my knitting mojo came back, it came back with a vengeance!  Of course, I’ll probably take a long break from knitting anything after all of this craziness! :) 

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Shawls and more shawls

Ever since finishing all of my state fair projects, I’ve been feeling a little “blah” about my various knitting projects.  I think the weather could be a factor because it has been 90-bazillion degrees for the last month.  You just don’t feel like knitting a wool sweater in such hot weather.  But then, at the end of August, I was bitten (hard) by the lace bug.  Since August 27th, I’ve knit an entire shawl, blocked it, photographed it and am 75% through another one.  It’s actually quite astonishing.

The first shawl, Bitterroot, was published in the Winter 2009 Knitty.  Knitting started on August 27th and I was finished with it by September 1st.  The pattern is an extremely fast knit and you can memorize it very quickly. Rosemary has written a shawlette and full shawl version of the pattern.  My Bitterroot is the full version but, because I did it in laceweight, it isn’t incredibly large.  I’m very much in a “let’s put beads on EVERYTHING” place right now so this shawl was perfect.

This shawl is intended for a friend as a wedding present.  She normally doesn’t wear a whole lot of bright colors so I originally planned to use a different yarn and a different pattern.  But when she showed me her wedding colors, she had chosen a lovely pink and cream.   I just happened to have the perfect yarn and beads in the stash! 

The yarn is a lovely pink laceweight alpaca that was naturally dyed by Earthly Hues.  I picked this yarn up from Tricia at a local craft show and this skein has lasted forever!  So far I’ve made a cowl and a shawl from it but there is still enough left for a whole other shawl.  The beads I used are pearl seed beads which were in my stash.  Normally I don’t have as much of a contrast between yarn and bead color but I like the finished product a lot. 

The second shawl is the Brandywine shawl.  This pattern is absolutely fantastic.  You cast on the bottom point and work your way up to the neck.  This shawl is made out of a fingering weight yarn and it is simply FLYING.  I started knitting it during my lunchbreak on August 31st because I was on the last 2 rows of Bitterroot and didn’t want to run out of lace to work on.  As of lunchtime today, I’m 75% finished with it. 

I don’t have a fantastic picture of the shawl because it is still in that yucky, not blocked lace blob.  The yarn is Sterling Silk & Silver by Kraemer Yarns.  It is a wool, silk, nylon and silver blend.  The silver really isn’t scratchy and I can definitely imagine using this yarn for socks though it would be a waste in your shoes.  A couple of years ago, I bought 2 skeins of it at Knitter’s Connection to make a shawl.  Did I have a shawl in mind?  Of course not.  Then I came across the Brandywine shawl and knew I found the right pattern.  The silver flecks really make my Brandywine look interesting. 

Both shawls are designed by Rosemary Hill and I think the next one that I knit will be by her, too. I think I might be a junkie. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Even more state fair pictures

I took tons of picture at the state fair and thought I would share some more after last post.  So enjoy!




Einstein ducks!

Goat of the mountain!

028-Dale of Norway sweater

029-icelandic sweater

023-other craft
felted items

021-other craft

025-knitted ornament

020-other craft


leather working

duct tape flowers!

duct tape sculptures

Do you see the little bluebirds? 

This is all hand quilted!!!

Again, hand quilted!!!!





Isn’t this table amazing?!  Everything on the top of the cake is edible.  EVERYTHING even the wee little egg shells and yolks! 


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

State Fair results

As you might remember, I went crazy this year and entered 7 different projects into the state fair.  Next year, someone needs to remind me not to be over-ambitious! It was fun to see everything displayed there but was a lot of work.  Mom and I went over on Sunday to see how I had done and to watch the fleece judging.  If I had cash on me, I would have probably come home with a fleece.  Ah, next year :)


The silk lace shawl I made for my friend’s wedding gift came in second in the lace category!


The competition was really tough (and beautiful!).  This next picture is blurry but it should give you an idea.  The pink stole to the right of the display case had crystal beads along the edges.  It was really lovely.


This year the handspun skeins seemed to have more entries than last year.  I didn’t pay too much attention last year though so my memory could be faulty.  They did display things differently this year.  This year there were 2 rows of wrapped up skeins. 


I got a second place for my purple silk yarn whose roving I bought at Maryland this year.  The category was silk yarns with no weight specified.


For the fingering weight category, I entered my Red Berries yarn whose roving I bought at SOAR in 2009. 


One lady who entered multiple skeins into the competition had a really neat idea.  She spun up the same roving into multiple weights.  On her details card, she said she planned to weave a shawl with all of the yarns.  I think the finished project would look really nice.  I hope that she enters it into the weaving category next year! 

My felted mittens also got a first place!  Have I mentioned how much I liked the pattern?  If I trusted my ability to figure out felting to knitting ratios, I’d be tempted to come up with a matching hat. 


This is a picture of one of the displays of felted items.  Do you see that rug to the right?  It was a gorgeous wet felted rug.  The hanging above it was needle felted. 


Some of the miscellaneous knitted objects were also in the felted case.  Can you see the knitted veggie basket in the corner?  Adorable!  And perfect for the fair. 

024-knitted fruit

The multi-directional scarf I made with Noro Silk Garden Sock won 3rd in the accessories category!  I was really impressed by the way that they displayed the items.  If you listen to the podcast, Sticks and String, he tells horror stories about how lace items are hung wrong side out or balled up, heavy sweaters were suspended by safety pins and fishing line, things scrunched up so badly that you can’t tell what the pattern is.  Well, there is no such difficulty at the state fair.  They did a really good job. 


The sweater category had the best (and most!) competition, hands-down.  There were sweaters all over the place.  Mom and I even found some non-placing sweaters completely across the room in a doll art case because there were so many entries.   They just couldn’t fit in only one case. 


Do you see that grey one in the right hand corner?  That’s my Twist Cardigan.  Frankly, after seeing the competition, I’m floored that I even placed.  I have absolutely NO idea why that Dale of Norway sweater didn’t get a ribbon. 


What probably set mine apart was the different techniques I used: the tubular cast ons and bind offs and the grosgrain ribbon on the buttonbands.  In June, a woman who used to judge handspinning and fleece selecting at the state fair talked to my fiber guild.  She said one year she watched the knitting being judged and the 2 main things that set an item apart were the finishing (weaving in ends, seaming, etc) and different/challenging techniques. 

If you are counting, you might have realized that is 6 projects mentioned and not 7.  So what about the 7th, my handspun Tangled Yoke Cardigan? 

005-handspun sweater

I’m very happy :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

State Fair 2010

It’s time again for the desperate rush to finish all of my state fair projects. I’m not sure what happened (I blame registering late at night and thinking I can complete more than I did) but I committed myself to 7 different classes (plus 2 classes for the local fair). I entered things in the felt category, handspinning category, and knitting category.

I have 2 sweaters that I’m submitting. The first is my handspun sweater, the Tangled Yoke Cardigan, spun from a local woman’s CVM sheep. I worked on this sweater for the Knitting Olympics but was a button band away from finishing it when the closing ceremonies happened. I decided to do a grosgrain ribbon backing for the buttonbands. “Why?” you may ask. Well, It’s a great way to put an excellent finishing touch to your sweater. I just like the idea that my buttonband won’t gap and make it look like the sweater is too small! Have you seen the grosgrain ribbon video tutorial put together by the Knitmore Girls?

The second sweater is the Twist Cardigan. The yarn I am using is Berroco Vintage in a lovely grey. This yarn is a superwash wool/acrylic blend that is knitting up really well. The finished fabric feels really nice. I had major problems with the shoulder seams of this sweater because that is where the cable is so you have the combination of the knit and purl stitches. None of my seaming attempts looked very good. Oh, well, running out of time so it is what it is!

Another thing that has been giving me trouble is the bind off edges. I did a tubular cast on and bind off on each edge. I got the tutorial for the cast on edge from Ysolda Teague’s website. It was super easy and I’ll definitely be doing it again in the future. The bind off isn’t strictly called a tubular bind off but an invisible bind off from Interweave Knits, Fall 2008. It is like doing a really long Kitchener Stitch. The finished look is nice but it felt like it took forever to do.

Mom helped me on Sunday by sewing the grosgrain ribbon onto the Twist and attaching the buttons. She sewed the grosgrain ribbon on in half the time it took me to do the same thing. She’s definitely better at handsewing!

The next project I’m entering is for the knitted accessories category. It is a multidirectional scarf out of Noro Silk Garden Sock that I knit back in 2009. The Silk Garden makes a nice looking scarf but I don’t think I would like it as socks.
Old picture of scarf

I was torn between adding a fringe or not to the scarf. Finally, I decided that it doesn’t look finished without a fringe. So I added a 3 inch fringe to each edge with a color change on each side.

What else is left? Oh, yeah, a lace shawl. I have one shawl, a Swallowtail Shawl, finished for one friend (it was a tinsy bit late for her wedding). I let my friend know that she would be getting the shawl after the fair was over. It is knit from a cone of silk yarn that I picked up at Maryland Sheep and Wool in 2008. Originally, this yarn was supposed to be another stole but I ran out with a foot of knitting left to do. I frogged that and started a Swallowtail instead.


I also entered a pair of mittens into the felted knitted item category. You should be amazed that I could actually find these mittens because I felted them back in November. I’ve loved the look of this mitten pattern since I saw them at least 3 (or more) years ago. This is the second pair I have made with this pattern. This second attempt turned out much better because I used the correct weight of yarn (it’s amazing the difference between chunky and worsted!). This pair is made out of a dark blue Cascade 220 tweed. They felted down to the perfect size and I’ll definitely be using them this winter!

I almost forgot to talk about my handspun skein entries! My first handspun skein is the Red Berries yarn I finished back in March. The 6 oz of wool came from SOAR 2009 and I’m pretty impressed that it was spun up so quickly. Usually it languishes a lot longer. It is a 3-ply fingering weight that I’m planning to knit up into socks whenever it get around to it.
red berries

The other yarn is from a 100% silk bump that I bought at this year’s Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. It is 2 ounces of beautiful purple silk. I started spinning it first on one of the trindles I bought this year but then finished spinning the singles and plying on the wheel. The finished yarn is a nice 2-ply heavy laceweight. The yarn has a tiny bit of barberpoling (light and dark color spiraling together) but I like the way it looks overall.

You might be wondering why, when I took that photography class, there aren’t pictures of every finished entry. The reason for that is I turned everything in at 4:30pm and the submission deadline was 5pm. There wasn’t much time for taking pictures in there! I’ll take pictures of everything in the display cases at the fair.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Photographing Your Fiber with Franklin Habit

I took a photography class with Franklin Habit on Friday at Knitter’s Connection and learned TONS. The first and foremost is that the user manual to your camera is a useful tool! Who knew you could learn so much looking at the manual?

close up of spinning

First, Franklin explained basics about cameras, how they take pictures, and some basics about color. Color is especially important to all of us because we all want to show off the yarns we’ve used and their true color. If you take a picture under florescent lights, for example, your photo is going to have a greenish cast to it. If your picture was taken in a wall with bright blue walls, the light is going to reflect off of the walls and give your picture a blu-ish cast.

multi-directional scarf

One really great feature on your camera is the white balance feature. That means, even if you are in a greenish light and use the white balance, you can still get a decent picture. On my camera, you have to go to the white balance setting, picture of a piece of white paper (I used the back page of my camera’s manual) so the camera knows what is white in that light, and take your newly white balanced photo. This picture was taken next to the window in the lobby area without white balancing anything.

spinning without white balance

This one was. See the difference? I’m definitely seeing this setting being used frequently in the future!

spinning with white balance

Next, Franklin showed us how to construct a simple light box. His suggestion, if you want to build one yourself, was to google for directions because there are so many good ones out there. In the future, I’m definitely going to make one.
light box

In the light box, you can control exactly how much light is falling on your project. If you want only one side illuminated to really pick up the stitch definition, you can make that happen without having to wait for the sun to move. You can also have light illuminating both sides of your project so one side of your sweater isn’t entirely in darkness and the other lit up.

look at that seed stitch!
Classmate's sweater

Another feature of the camera we were playing with is the aperture or lens opening of the camera and depth of field. The term “depth of field” refers to how much of the picture is in focus. You can use the depth of field to your advantage by highlighting only a small portion and blurring the fore- and backgrounds of the photo. Such a picture is said to have a “shallow depth of field.” This is especially good if you want to show off something like a button band but not the sweater as a whole. If you want the sweater as a whole, you would use a deep focus depth of field. (clear as mud yet?)

You can adjust the depth of field in your photo by adjusting the aperture diameter of your camera. The aperture diameter is measured like this: f2.8, f5, f16, etc. It’s a little counter-intuitive (a little?!) but the smaller the number (f2.8), the bigger lens opening is and you will have a shallower depth of field. So if you wanted everything in the photo in focus, you would use f16. You will have to check out your camera’s manual to see what all you can and can’t do with your camera. It’s just amazing to me that my “point and shoot” camera can have such advanced tools at its disposal.

I found what Franklin said about lace to be really interesting. He told us that lace is especially hard to photograph because it needs motion to make it look beautiful. Now, I don’t mean it has to be swirling in the air while you are taking the picture. Rather, it shouldn’t be laying there flat on the table without any shadows, folds, drape, etc. It needs those shadows to give it depth. Without the depth, your lace will look dead or drab so you should either hang it off of something or prop it up to create shadows. You can also use the aperture settings to enhance certain motifs of the lace while having the rest of the project out of focus. That will cause the eye to be drawn to the motif. As you can tell, I had a lot of fun with my lace shawl!



close up of beads

One of the things about photography that Franklin stressed was everything takes time and practice. He compared photography with learning how to knit socks. If you only pick up your socks every 2 months and knit a couple of rows, you aren’t going to learn how to do socks. He stressed that you should practice your photography skills and expect to take time with your photo shoots. If you point and click your photo, it will look like a point and click! You might have to take tons of pictures to get that one perfect one.

knitting needle bracelets