Tag Archives: Fleece Artist

On my toes

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Tis the season for year-end posts, I know, but I’m going to squeak one more FO post in before I start that (I’m giving myself the whole first week of January for look-back, look-forward stuff). Anyway. When I started knitting/sewing all my Christmas gifts, I started a little tradition for myself: when my last gift is off the needles, I cast on a pair of socks for me. It’s not a big thing, but socks are good for all the travel and casual socializing of the holidays, and new socks are sort of a holiday classic.

This year, though, I decided to do something a little different. For starters, L and I decided to spend Christmas together, so I went home with him for a week. I know the rhythms of my family’s holiday traditions inside out, but I wasn’t sure how much knitting time I’d have with his family, and I wanted to be open to all the differences instead of lamenting a lack of time with my needles. I also, if you remember, wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to finish L’s gloves before Christmas, so I wasn’t really sure I’d even have time to knit Christmas socks for myself.

This picture is from the beginning of November, and I hadn't added a stitch to these socks until I pulled them out of their bag a few days before Christmas.

This picture is from the beginning of November, and I hadn’t added a stitch to these socks until I pulled them out of their bag a few days before Christmas.

How lucky then, that I had a lovely pair of socks already on the needles! I started my Blackberry socks way back in September, but as often happens with this kind of sock (fun, variegated yarn at a tight gauge) they were my in-between knitting, and quickly got put aside entirely in favour of holiday knitting. I was part-way into through the leg of the second sock, and they were in a holiday-ish colour, so they were a perfect alternative to an entirely fresh pair.

I finished L’s gloves a few days before Christmas, so I picked up these socks and got to work. Somehow, between cooking and eating and socializing I managed to sneak in a few stitches, and a couple of movies later they were finished! I cast off on Christmas Day (thank goodness I’d brought some back-up yarn for my short flight home!) and they are lovely, if I do say so myself.

Photo taken a few days ago, in front our (first!) Christmas tree.

Photo taken a few days ago, in front our (first!) Christmas tree.

I’ve been paying attention to my habits lately and it seems that, when I have a full drawer of clean socks, these kinds of plain, tightly knit ones are the first to get warn. They’re the ones I reach for again and again, though they’re also the ones I take longest to knit: if they aren’t striped, I don’t seem to ever be in a hurry to finish plain stockinette socks — my last three pairs all took more than three months from cast-on to cast-off, whereas plain striped socks seems to knit themselves. The solution, I think, is clearly more stripes!

Since this post is turning into an end-of-December sort of analysis anyway, one last thing: Do you remember my sock goal for this year? Basically I wanted to knit about seven everyday pairs of socks, preferably from my stash. Well, I just about did it. I knit six plain pairs (out of 12 pairs total — more on those in my actual wrap-up post) and, except for one pair, they were all from stash yarn! My Blackberry socks are actually from yarn I bought over three years ago, right around the time I was acquiring a stash, so that’s pretty good I think.

In case you're curious, this is Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Blackberry. I really like the way the colours knit up at this gauge. Not too much flashing or pooling, but a little pattern nonetheless.

In case you’re curious, this is Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Blackberry. I really like the way the colours knit up at this gauge. Not too much flashing or pooling, but a little pattern nonetheless.

I definitely have more sock (and knitting) plans for 2015, but I will give that its own post. In the meantime, do you knit for yourself over the holidays? After so long knitting for others, it feels like such a treat.

This old house

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The front of the house.

The front of the house.

Two weekends ago (that is, not this past weekend, but the one before) I went home to Nova Scotia for four days. It’s always nice to go home, but this time there was an actual occasion: this year marks the 250th anniversary/birthday of the house I grew up in. Yes. My parents’ wooden house is (at least) 250 years old. Obviously, this is not usual, but it is especially impressive when you consider that the town it’s build next to burnt down twice.

The house was brought up on a barge from Connecticut in 1763. After the British expelled the Acadians from the Annapolis Valley they wanted to ensure that they couldn’t return, so in addition to burning their homes and fields, they brought Loyalist Americans north to settle the land.

My parents bought the house (which sits on five acres of land) in 1991 and have basically spent all the years since restoring historical details (such as exposing all the beams downstairs) and creating gardens. When I went home, it was to help them host a tour of the house and gardens, in support of the local historical society. I took a bunch of pictures, so I thought I’d share some.

Looking in – you can see the original height of the meadow on the left.

Looking in – you can see the original height of the meadow on the left.

The walled garden is the newest edition and still a work in progress. It was excavated four years ago, at which point the walls were built, and every year since then something as been added. This is the first year that it has been fully planted, so a lot of the ground cover and whatnot hasn’t spread.

The view across the garden from the entrance.

The view across the garden from the entrance. We ate dinner up here almost every night I was home (there’s a big stone table in the shelter).

The view from the far back corner, diagonally across from the entrance.

The view from the far back corner, diagonally across from the entrance.

There are lots of flower beds and gardens, and a whole fenced in yard where we played as kids, but besides the new walled garden, the other sort of spectacular part of the property is the ravine. When we moved in, and for most of my childhood, it was a wild and overgrown swamp, but in the late nineties my dad had it excavated and turned it into two beautiful big ponds, which are now home to muskrats, many frogs, and a ton of water lilies.

Looking down toward the bottom pond, from the bend in the little stream that connects them.

Looking down toward the bottom pond, from the bend in the little stream that connects them.

Stone steps that lead down to the patio by the ponds/back up toward the house.

Stone steps that lead down to the patio by the ponds/back up toward the house.

Of course my trip home wasn’t entirely about the house and gardens. My dad took my sister Connie and I to the south shore for lunch one day and, as luck would have it, there was a lovely new-to-me yarn shop. I was very good and didn’t go crazy, but I did walk away with this beauty:

Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in what I'm guessing is her Autumn colourway (she doesn't write the names on the tags because they are hard to repeat exactly and people get mad about it, or so I've been told.)

Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in what I’m guessing is her Autumn colourway (she doesn’t write the names on the tags because they are hard to repeat exactly and people get mad about it, or so I’ve been told.)

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty excellent trip.

Not quite a pair

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I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but it would seem that the last pair of socks I knit doesn’t match. At all.

mismatched

I am not chalking this up to second sock syndrome, though, because there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this. Let’s start with the sock on the left. I started these, according to Ravelry, on Oct. 30. It was background knitting in November and themn, after finishing the first one, shit got real with my Christmas knitting and the socks were put aside.  (A noble sacrifice, really, and nothing to do with how much I wished they were Jaywalkers like my other ones or how tedious I find ribbing.)

A basic 3x1 ribbed sock in Fleece Artist BFL sock, colourway Seafoam.

A basic 3×1 ribbed sock in Fleece Artist BFL sock, colourway Seafoam.

After my Christmas knitting was done, I was determined to knit myself Christmas socks, and since this pair was half-finished it would have been cheating to pick them back up. So, I packed the yarn for my Biscotti socks and left these in Toronto when I went home for Christmas. I didn’t want the distraction of the easy gratification of just finishing one sock and calling it a pair, and I truly didn’t think the Biscotti socks would only take a week.

Hermione's Everyday Socks, knit in Tosh Sock colourway Jade. It turns out this particular combination is impossible to properly photograph on a cloudy day (the colour is more accurate on Ravelry).

Hermione’s Everyday Socks, knit in Tosh Sock colourway Jade. It turns out this particular combination is impossible to properly photograph on a cloudy day (the colour is more accurate on Ravelry).

But, they did. And that quick knit combined with potential travel delays forced me to ball up a skein of Tosh Sock I bought at a Boxing Day sale. Nevermind that I didn’t actually need to cast on for new socks in this yarn until after I got home, where the Seafoam socks were waiting. That’s irrelevant. In my mind, I’d already planned new socks in this yarn and so, to scratch that itch, I cast on. They were background knitting in January and now, here I am almost in February, with an entirely mismatched pair.

To solve this problem, I’ve decided to keep trucking away on the green socks and get them finished, and then finish the Seafoam ones, which are in a very spring-ish colourway and thus won’t hurt for the wait. In the meantime, though, I’m half considering wearing them as a pair (even though they would look ridiculous and feel very different on my feet) just because I could really have used another pair of socks right about now.

Socks and socks

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Last night, I made two new sock knitters. I have taught various friends to knit socks, but this was the first time I taught in a formal environment (by which I mean, people paid me), and although I was a little nervous, it was also really fun. Watching people turn their first heel – make flat knitting into something three-dimensional – is awesome. Truly, it is knitting magic, and to watch people realize that they have mastered a technique that cool is pretty great. I taught them baby socks, since it was only a two-hour class, so not only were the heels magical, but also tiny and cute. It was seriously fun, and I think I did alright as a teacher, which was a relief.

In the world of grownup socks, stuff is happening. The same weekend I finished my Jaywalkers, I finished the first of my Daphne socks. Can we just take a minute to recognize how amazing Cookie A. is? I mean, truly. Here is a pattern that is straightforward, well written, beautiful, and not boring. What are the odds of that? Second sock syndrome? Not with her designs. I love how these are turning out, and I think the indigodragonfly Merino Silk 4-ply was a perfect choice. This photo (shot with a flash indoors – sorry), sort of shows you what I mean.

Crappy picture, lovely socks. Let’s pretend the bad quality is a way to retain the surprise in case my sister wanders over here, okay?

The silk gives the lace such richness, and the tone-on-tone variegation makes the variations in texture pop. I am going to have a hard time giving these away, which means they are going to be an excellent gift. I’m just a few rows from the heel flap on the second sock, and if all goes well, they’ll be done by the end of the weekend. (That being said, it’s only Wednesday, so anything could happen.)

Finally, remember when I said I wasn’t going to cast on any more socks until my Christmas knitting was well in hand? Well, I said that, and then an hour or so later I was leaving the house to go spend an afternoon with a friend, and realized I had no plain knitting. None. Now, I’m sure Wendy wouldn’t have minded terribly if I had charts, but it’s not really as social, so I was forced – forced! – to cast on a pair of plain socks.

These would neer be described as my colours, but I am totally loving them nonetheless.

I’m not really sure why I didn’t go for Jaywalkers again, since it’s certainly a simple enough pattern, but instead I’m knitting these in a 3×1 rib, and quite liking the result. The yarn (Fleece Artist BFL Sock in Seafoam), both in the skein and in the ball, frightened me quite a bit with it’s acid-trip-level colours, but the way they’re blending in the rib is quite pleasing. They were an excellent antidote to the greyness brought by Sandy, and although I’m now buckling down on Christmas stuff (it is November, after all), they’re a pleasant little side project and should keep my wandering eye in check over the next month and a bit.

Jaywalkers!

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Finished at last!

These are serious contention to be my new favourite socks. I finished them last weekend and have already worn them three times, which is a pretty solid indication of knitterly satisfaction (and also why the heels look a little dull in this photo – they need a wash).

I think it’s funny how on one sock the colours are pretty randomly stacked on the other they flash in a pretty orderly way down the leg.

I have too much Christmas knitting in front of me to cast on another pair of these socks for myself, but there will be more pairs in my future. I’m going to poke around for a good self-striping yarn, I think, for my next pair, because how much fun would that be?

That being said, I loved watching these socks come together. Maybe I’m just easily amused, but watching the colours stack up was really enjoyable, as was seeing the way the colours slowly made their way around the socks. Honestly, I’m not sure this yarn is capable of pooling (or I just got lucky with the dye lot). My favourite colours in this yarn, though, were the ones that appeared as the main colours shifted. There’s a green/grey/blue in this yarn that is the exact colour of the underside of spruce needles, and every time it arrived on my needles I got a little excited to see where it would land. Those in-between colours never lasted more than two or three stitches at a time, but they were so glorious I didn’t even care.

I will say that these are among the more rigid socks I’ve knit. It might have a little to do with the yarn, which was lovely but not super stretchy, but in general the chevron pattern is not very stretchy. The width of these socks is perfect for me, but my high arch means I have to tug a little to get my foot into them. I did add a few rows to the heel flap, but next time I might add a few more, just to add a little more stretch in that area. It’s something to think about if you’re planning to knit these and, like me, have high arches.

Details
Pattern: Jaywalker by Grumperina
Yarn: Fleece Artist BFL Sock in Spruce
Needle: 2.25mm Clover bamboo dpns
Modifications: The main modification I made was to cast on the number of stitches required for the small, knit the ribbing, and then increase eight stitches evenly across the first plain row so the rest of the sock was knit in size medium. I originally planned to just go up a needle size after the ribbing, but I liked the fabric I was making, so I stuck it out. I also added a few rows to the heel flap, and just knit my normal toe instead of the one in the pattern (mostly because I didn’t even think to look at the toe in the pattern until after the first sock and then decided they should match, so I did it the same way on sock 2.) Ravelled here.

I started these way back in September (here I am knitting them on our camping trip), but if I’d focused on them, they wouldn’t have taken more than two weeks.

So long, perfect record

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Let me just start by saying that I have not been sick in about four years. I mean, I get hit by allergies in the spring and fall, and I get a cold every now and then, but I haven’t been stay-at-home sick in years. Well, until this week anyway. This week ended my no-sick streak in a big way. I missed three days of work; I went through multiple boxes of Kleenex; L made me soup; I even got to the pathetic point in sickness when you wonder if this is just going to be how it is now. I hate being sick, but as a knitter, it has its advantages.

On my first day home, I actually couldn’t knit. I spend the day wrapped in an afghan, intermittently reading and sleeping. I drank lots of tea and hot lemon (a family staple), and the next day I thought I was better. I went to work on Tuesday, feeling mostly okay. Then I went to work on Wednesday, and by the end of the night, I felt awful. I spent the next two days at home.

But, thanks to be brief uptick at the beginning of the week, I managed to make the week pretty productive. To whit: I am halfway through the first of my Christmas socks (a gift for my sister), I started a new shawl and am through the first chart, and I made a little headway on the much loved, though equally neglected, Spruce Jaywalkers. I wasn’t really planning this as a productive week obviously, so I don’t really have before pictures, but here’s what I managed to get done between sneezes and naps.

First, Christmas socks. I actually wanted to get these started a month ago (I swatched for them in August, for heaven’s sakes), but there always seemed to be something else on the needles. Anyway, on Monday night, when I was feeling a little better, I cast on the cuff for Cookie A.’s Daphne sock pattern. I fell in love with these socks when she first released the pattern, and knew it would be perfect for my sister, who always looks longingly at my handknit socks, and especially at the lace ones.

One of my favourite things about lace socks is that they’re a surprise when you put them on.

I’m knitting these in indigodragonfly’s Merino Silk 4-Ply Sock, a 50-50 silk merino blend that is very soft (and a little slippery) and perfect for the pattern. Although this is a fingering weight and the pattern calls for sport, it’s working out just fine. The colour is not quite as bubblegum as Cookie A.’s, but it’s certainly feminine, which you’d expect from a colourway called Don’t You Have an Elsewhere to Be? (Cordelia).

Here’s the expanded lace pattern. (I know this will be a good gift because I want to keep them for myself.)

Surprise!

I guess it makes sense that I started a few things this week, given all the finishing I did last week. New project number 2 is The Lonely Tree Shawl by Sylvia Bo Bilvia (hilarious name, no?). I’ve had my eye on this one since she released it a few weeks ago. It’s a free pattern, written for a worsted weight tweedy sort of yarn, and honestly, how perfect is that leafy lace for fall? Well, on Tuesday when I was in the shop, Claudia (the owner) mentioned she’d like it if I wore more garments knit from yarns we carry (I knit with shop yarns all the time, but socks and things are harder to see). I was trying not to shop for myself before Christmas, but this seemed like the perfect excuse, so I snapped up some of The Fibre Company’s Acadia – a merino, baby alpaca, and silk blend – in Douglas Fir and cast on on Wednesday.

The other reason I cast this on was because I needed something to break up all the sock action I had going on.

I just finished the first of three charts (the others are about half as many rows each) and although it looks small, I have faith in the powers of blocking. I’m thinking it will be a sort of warmer, wintry shawl, and chose the colour because it will go nicely with my dark red winter coat.

Finally, the Spruce Jaywalkers. I actually finished the first one in Nova Scotia, casting on the second during the plane ride back to Toronto. I fully planned to just buckle down and knit the second, but then other projects came along, as they do, and it just kind of stuck around. Usually a sock taking this long is an indication that I’m bored with it, but that is not the case here. I continue to delight in the colour changes and watching how they stack up, and this sock has been faithful TV and travel knitting when I didn’t have something else more pressing to work on.

One and a half socks.

The pattern is easy, but not so mindless as to be numbing, and the yarn is fun and nice to knit with. I was an inch or so above dividing for the heel when I picked these up, and now I’m into the gussets, so it probably won’t be long before this is a completed pair, which I’m quite excited about. I have another skein of this Fleece Artist BFL Sock already wound and destined to be a pair of plain socks once these one are off the needles – truly, I love this yarn.

And there you have my week. I’m feeling much better now, which probably means my knitting productivity will dip as I go back to my normal routine, but that’s okay – I’m over being sick.

Thanksgiving shawl

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Last weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada and we spent it with L’s parents. They live about four hours away by car, which is a bit of a ways, but great knitting time. I brought the wedding mittens with me, but between the finicky knitting and the tiny chart, they proved too much for the car. Luckily, I also brought Oaklet, which was perfect car knitting.

After all my previous indecision, I decided to stick it out. I trust that the Fleece Artist knows what she’s doing when she dyes her yarns, and wouldn’t you know it, she does! As the rows became longer and the colour repeats changed length the shawl opened up and turned almost caramel in colour (it looks a little like a chocolate bar, to be honest). Once I got into the lace, the purples and the greens started to pop, and even though I still ended up with light and dark pooling, I don’t mind one bit.

The colours are perfect for fall, no?

The finished shawl is 49 inches across the top and 18 inches deep, which is – surprise surprise – smaller than I would have liked, but still an entirely comfortable length to wear as a shawlette under a jacket, which is perfect for fall. (I should note, perhaps, that I’s actually longer (though not as deep) than the pattern measurements, which is a first.) On the pattern notes, Megan Goodacre makes specific mention of the fact that her shawl took an entire 350 yds. Although I had two skeins of this yarn, I decided I only wanted to use one, so I stuck to the pattern notes precisely – and ended up only using about 3/4 of the skein, despite going up a needle size. If I were to do this again, I would absolutely add four or eight more rows to the stockinette section, just to gain a little more length. But oh well, now I have enough Earth to knit any fancy pair of socks I want!

I also kind of wish I’d added more lace.

Details
Pattern: Oaklet Shawl by Megan Goodacre
Yarn: Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Earth
Needles: 4 mm Addi Turbos
Modifications: I went up a needle size because I may have finally learned that I knit more firmly than most patterns. Other than that, nothing!
Notes: If you decide to knit this shawl, when you get to the lace portion make sure to read both the written instructions and the charted ones, because they don’t entirely match at the beginning of the right-side rows. I kind of fudged this a bit and then just made sure my first set of leaves matched up so everything could flow from there, but you do have to pay attention to avoid ripping.