winter woolens

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… or “Loki mittens and the third watch-cap”. It’s winter! I made wooly stuff I can wear! Let’s have a look.

Mittens
Yarn:
 Random scraps of yarn – most of it gifted balls of Icelandic yarn from the stash of a friend who’d been there.
Pattern: Made up, based on Loki sweater pattern. (my ravelry project page)
Techniques: Stranded colorwork, ribbing.

Cabled hat
Yarn:
 Merino wool from a frogged sweater.
Pattern: Cabled watch-cap by Kristen Orme
Techniques: Ribbing, cables.

So, the mittens are a figment of my imagination. Not in the sense that they aren’t real (they must be – the keep my hands warm every day!), but the pattern is made up. I came across the Loki kid sweater on Ravelry a really long time ago, and immediately thought they would make cool Icelandic-inspired mittens with some Icelandic coarse wool I’d just been given by a friend. It took several years to make this happen, but here! Finally!

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I used the repeat pattern from the original kid sweater and repeated it eight times, following the decreases from the chart exactly. It made a sort of funny cone-like shape that isn’t the best for.. you know, hand-shapes. I’m on to the second pair (this time for a friend), and making improvements to get a proper hand shape instead. Meanwhile, I washed, blocked and stretched this pair, and it works just fine. It is very rustic looking – both in yarn and stitch quality! In my defense I will claim that the gorgeously colored green yarn (which a burn test revealed to be some sort of acrylic I think, though oddly stiff) was really hard to work with. I didn’t make it easier on myself either by choosing to combine three different weights of yarn! Especially in the middle section where all three colors are in play at once – it got thick and dense real fast. Surprisingly though, for being a stranded pattern *and* real sticky Icelandic wool, these mittens are not very warm. On their own they are barely good for a crisp fall day, which doesn’t quite describe the season we’re in. I wonder if the gauge might be too loose to get a real dense fabric? Regardless – a pair of thin gloves underneath and it’s all ok. Plus, I love how well these mittens match my woolen hats, and my winter jacket, and generally the rest of my wardrobe. I’ve decided they are kind of charming in their rustic-ness!

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I had a lot of fun knitting these mittens – I’ve forgotten how much I love doing colorwork! It is a fairly small project, and with changes to pretty much every row it is excellent entertainment… Just one more row! I have two more of this type planned out/started, and another fingering weight colorwork pair of mittens  at the top of my ravelry queue (this one). I’m thinking of using my Barcelona souvenir yarn and some thin brown alpacca yarn. It will be sumptuous!

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Ok, and now the hat. It might look familiar. It’s the third time I’ve knit the exact same hat in the exact same yarn. I posted about the first time I knit this hat here (it ended up being to big and I gave it to a friend), and here is the post for the second one (which apparently I’ve lost).

I’m not quite sure what to say about this hat other than 1. I obviously love it since I’ve knit it three times, 2. I actually finally almost used up the rest of this merino wool! It came from a thrifted sweater and the yarn is so fine I’ve been knitting with four strands, 3. I like the wider ribbing of the second version the best, and 4. I’m particularly pleased with how I did the increases between the ribbing and the cabled pattern in such a way that the pattern grows naturally from the rib pattern.

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Oh, I wanted to talk a little about photo editing! That was a topic on Katie’s blog in connection with her Better Pictures post on indoor photography, as well as Gillian’s post on using Lightroom. Personally I use a combination of Bridge and Photoshop, which I have since I got a really great deal on the Adobe CS-package while still a student at an art college. Sidenote – there at school I took a digital photography class where we used Lightroom, and I thought it was really good, and easy to use. When my current set-up is outdated beyond repair, Lightroom would be my dream choice for blog photo editing.

The set-up I’ve got going now is pretty much a substitute to the Lightroom setup in many ways. I use a Nikon D600, and I have it set up to save in both RAW and jpeg formats. I got used to working with RAW-files in the digital photography class, and I’m just not going back if I can help it! There is so much information in the unprocessed files, which in many ways makes photo editing much easier, since there is more you can do before your photos look… you know, really edited. Anyways, I open my photoshoot folder in Bridge, and look through what I have. As I go along I label the pictures I like (you can use a star rating, or different colors). Then I filter to show only labeled photos, and start comparing and deselecting the good but not great ones. Once I have my selection I mark them all and open with Photoshop, which will go straight into RAW-editing mode. From there I can play with temperature, exposure, black level, brightness, recovery and fill light (the last two are great for overexposed white areas, and those times when the light source is behind me or not strong enough). Those are the things I pretty consistently adjust. I have set up an action to save my photos, so a keyboard shortcut will resize the photo optimized for web, into a folder I’ve specified, and close out the photo from Photoshop so I know I’m done with it. It works really well. I’m very in favor of actions – once you’ve taken the trouble of setting them up!

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I thought about all of this because while editing the photos I hit the auto-option for color temperature and general exposure (like I always do – at the very least I want to see what the program thinks I should do!), and it made the colors really warm, and it made for a nice-looking photo. My first thought however was “This is all wrong! It was a really cold day, with the sun setting early in the afternoon and I had a pale, low sun as the source of light. It should look cold!”. So I left the pictures looking a little cold. I’m not entirely sure what my point is, other than maybe that I edit the pictures to reflect how I think it looked or felt that day. Which this day was pretty damn chilly. I think maybe my frosty breath is visible in some of the pictures!

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Anyone else have a system or agenda with their photo editing? Or, use the “I’m just adjusting my hat/scarf/hair-pose to avoid awkward idle hands in photos? Or, have knitted some warm wintry goodness lately? It’s the season! (Or maybe… it’s the season for having them finished already so they can be put to use!)

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This will seem a little out of season, I’ll admit, especially since I had bare arms in the last post, but the interwebs is telling me that Chicago is still having cool enough temperatures to warrant wolly things.

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Yarn: Super bulky weight “Drops Eskimo” from “Garnstudio” in the yellowish green colorway 29, about 2 skeins (ravelry project page).
Pattern: Burton Bear Cowl
Techniques: Kitchener graft, crocheted details.

Here is the dino-hood I referenced as something I was making for not myself! It’s for the coolest little 5-year old kid in Chicago, and it’s because I came across this pattern, which is one of the most adorable things I’ve seen on a kid. I got to choose colors, and this green just called out to me. Which isn’t very surprising since I’ve actually made a cowl and hat from this exact yarn and exact color before! I’m so predictable. A trip to my mom offered the blue colored yarn to make a contrast binding and ears from – trying to think like a kid and not myself, I realized a bit of bold was a good thing.

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I dragged my feet on this one a bit. I really wanted to get this kiddo his hood before spring set in, but man… I did not like the pattern. It irritated me by being incomplete in instructions and measurements – in one place it tells you to knit a certain amount of rows (no length indicated), and in another place to knit a certain length (no rows indicated). Add the fact that no row gauge or finished hood measurements is listed in the pattern (really? Basic stuff to include!) meant that it was hard to figure out what was going on. I’m also skeptical of a pattern that includes a size range of newborn to adult across 5 sizes, with 5 different needle sizes, but still only the one stitch gauge offered. This is a paid pattern, and I expect more info, more details, more instructions and better construction from my paid patterns.

There, I’m done being critical! Excpet for the changes I made to the pattern. First off I bound off some stitches at the center front of the hood to allow the button flap to lie better, and to avoid a weak spot from sideways strain. I, along with a lot of people making this I think, opted for a kitchener graft of the top of the hood instead of the crocheted binding in the pattern. Finally, I could not get my made-up ears to look remotely as cute as the pattern pictures. While watching the Eurovision semifinals on tv, my friend suggested I made some jagged points-thingies instead, and of course! A dinosour-like ridge of triangles was a *much* better fit for the cool kiddo than the ears, so jagged pieces it is!

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The feedback is he loves it. Best result I could have hoped for!

working on…

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… Wendel socks! They are red, they are bright, they are for John, and they have a really cool geometric pattern (ravelry project page here). I had several false starts with this pair. My yarn isn’t quite right, so everything was turning out way too big. I ended up trying four or five different things before settling on a stitch count and combination that worked. John picked the color and approved the pattern, and I’m really liking the shapes that are emerging. I didn’t quite believe all the comments that the stitchpattern was easy to memorize – but it really is!

green & tweedy seamless sweater

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Yarn: DK weight “Felted Tweed” from “Rowan” in the turquoise green #152, about 4,5 skeins worth of it (ravelry project page).
Pattern: Another Seamless hybrid by Elizabeth Zimmermann. I’ve made one earlier for John, and after borrowing it a few (ahem) times, I thought I should make one for myself.
Techniques: Contrast band on inside of hem, raglan sleeves, yoke.

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Isn’t the church in the background great? It’s right next to the bus stop where we take the airport express to Rome, so the morning of heading back from olive picking we snapped some pictures while waiting for the bus. It feels like this sweater belongs to Italy somewhat now, since I’ve been working on it the last two times I’ve been there! To me it also feels like a sitting-outside-around-an-open-fire-sweater, so it fits right in there.

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It’s the second seamless hybrid I’ve made, the first one being this black cotton/wool one for John – actually the first sweater I ever made! The only construction note I have for this most recent version is that I should have knit the top of shoulders a little shorter since the neck opening ended up a little small.

The underarm picture is a reference to the first sweater I knit – John so much liked the orange yarn I’d used to hold the live stitches while finishing the knitting, that he wanted it to stay! So I grafted the underarm with that orange yarn, and he was very satisfied with the “flash of color”. With this sweater, when I grabbed the closest yarn to place the underarm stitches on hold, I realized it would be a nice little touch to leave it, and a bit of a signature move.

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Apparently I’ve already forgotten about the trials and tribulations of not having matching dyelots of the yarn (which led to a whole lot of ripping out, and subsequent striping), but I really can’t tell the difference at this point! I’d all but forgotten about it, but if you look closely you should be able to see the cuffs and hem a different color. Anyways, another sweater completed, yey!

wedding present mittens

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Yarn: DK/Sport weight “Smart” yarn from “Sandnes Garn”, in gold (2527), lilac (4622 – I think!) and blue-grey (6162). Here is the Ravelry project page for the mittens.
Pattern: My own mashed-up pattern, based on lots of different traditional patterns. And a lot of math (sometimes poor math).
Techniques: Colorwork, tubular cast on, gusset thumb, twisted stitches for the smaller cuff.

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I bet you’ve seen that I went to Ireland a little while back, to celebrate our friends’ wedding. You know, the thing I made that wonderfully swanky mustard colored dress for? Yeah, that wedding. Even back when we got the save the date-card, I knew I wanted to make the gifts. At first I toyed with the idea of fisherman’s sweaters for each of them, but then I realized that 1. I probably didn’t have enough time to handknit two cabled sweaters, and 2. I didn’t know if that would be up their alley, style-wise.

Having lived in Chicago for three years, I knew one thing that made the brutally cold and windy winters a little more bearable – proper colorwork mittens. The wool and the double layer of yarn mean that they are surprisingly windblocking, and definitely very warm. So there it was! I would make them mittens. But what pattern, and what colors? After a quick decision to make them in a same-ish pattern in different colors but with a common neutral color, we did some investigating. I got John to probe the groom-to-be about what colors he liked to wear (orange and green, I think he said), and I snooped around the future bride’s pinterest wedding inspiration board and realized there was a lilac and grey color scheme going on. Done! Dusty lilac for her, funky gold for him (and he’s a funky dude, so I think it’s a good fit!)

wedding_mittens1I have to say, I have a whole new respect for colorwork mitten designers now. Not only do you have to consider the total number of stitches for size, but also the repeat of the pattern for the palm must work with the amount of increases for the thumb as well as the decrease for the top, and the repeat pattern after the cuff needs to be divisible too, and… Phew! I’ll be leaving this to the pro’s for now, I think! I also had to size down the main star pattern for the smaller mitten, but that actually went surprisingly smooth once I figured out where I could omit some rows.

I wanted something to make the mittens more personal, and to be a reminder of the wedding day and celebrations. I considered working the date in there somehow, but finally decided that I liked the thought of their initials better. I wish I would have been able to make the letters a bit more balanced to suit my symmetrical eye, but that’s being a bit nitpicky. All in all I really am pleased how they came out, and of course – I hope they get lots of wear in the bitter Chicago winters. I’d love to see them all worn to bits in a handful of years, from constant use!

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P.S. Wondering where the second yellow-gold mitt is? It has already made it to Chicago as a pre-taste, so these three are stragglers, destined to join the first any day now.

working on…

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… my green seamless hybrid sweater. John, my talented photographer-boyfriend, took pictures of me the other day as I finished up the second sleeve. I just have to join the sleeves to the body and then I’ll soon have finished another seasonally inappropriate piece of knitting. Even though we’ve had glorious summer days now, it turns chilly when the sun sets, so it’s not that inappropriate I guess!

seasonally inappropriate knitting

My interest in sewing has approached non-existent lately (except, perhaps, the more mundane parts of sewing buttons and replacing snaps and moving belt-loops), so instead I have been reading, doing dishes, and seasonally inappropriate knitting.

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yellow_cowl_second2Wool scarves are still welcome in the pretty chilly May mornings, but I’ll admit I really didn’t need it for these dusk pictures. It maybe looks familiar, since it used to be another cowl I made. In my collection of cowls it was the least functioning one, being so skinny that even three loops around my neck wasn’t quite satisfying enough. I let it sit unwound for a while before I realized that doubling the yarn and making it all about texture would be the way to let the yarn shine (and, to be honest, serve me best). It took me a couple of tries and a tired wrist (the chopstick-sized needles are not the easiest to knit with!) but half a season of Gossip Girl was plenty for this yarn refashion.

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I was planning on just having a single picture for this quick alteration, but then John went and took so many good pictures that I had to add some more.

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P.S. There will probably will be some random, non-sewing-related posts for a while until the interest is sparked again. I really want to write about my running shoes, so I think I’ll do that. And I don’t even run anymore.

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