Testing is Grand

I know, I know.  Don’t pass out because I’m posting so soon already.  It’s just that I have quite a few FO’s to share with you and the projects are all so great, that I felt I had to share.

I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful friend like Laura who is also a talented designer that lets me test knit her patterns. I’ve recently completed 3 of them but I won’t try to overwhelm anyone with all three in one post. First up:

Pattern: Grandiflora by Laura Patterson (Ravelry)
Yarn: Chameleon Colorworks Bambino in Briar Rose
Needles: Knit Picks Circulars size 2.5 mm / US 1 1/2
Raveled here

If you have beautiful hand painted yarn in your stash that has short color repeats, it can be tricky finding a pattern that will show off the beautiful yarn while not obscuring the pattern. Look no further than this Grandiflora pattern. It reminds me in some ways of Grumperina’s Jaywalker pattern that is so very popular, except this pattern will stretch on your foot whereas the Jaywalker pattern seems to have people commenting on how snug and tight the socks are.

I know Laura spent countless weeks (possibly months) trying to get this pattern perfect, and she really did succeed beautifully. I know I’m a bit prejudiced, but I also have knit quite a few socks in the last 2 years (36 pairs) and so I look at patterns with a bit of a critical eye. Besides, who wants to wear ugly socks? I’ve frogged one too many pairs of socks where the pattern and yarn did not work well together and I realized I need to be more critical of patterns I choose to knit, so that the disappointing half finished socks stop staring at me from the corner of the knitting room with an accusatory eye like I’ve abandoned them. Although usually I have.

Besides having a beautiful pattern, the yarn is quite amazing also. Chameleon Colorworks has some beautiful colorways, but also their base yarn is divine. The Bambino yarn is 30% bamboo and 70% superwash merino. The combination of these two fibers makes a sock that is incredibly soft, but also breathes a bit better than 100% wool yarns. Perfect for my southern California climate.

Also, if you’re an official member of Summer of Socks 2008, you can get a free copy of this pattern until August 15th.


Blog Much?

I know some of you may have noticed my absence both from my blog and from commenting on your blogs. The truth of the matter is, my health hasn’t been so good and I just haven’t felt much like participating in blog-land. Yes, it’s the fibromyalgia. I’m unsure what has caused this resurgence of pain, and the worst part about it is I’ve had to cancel my trip to Portland this week because of it. I was so excited to meet up with my friends Abby and Judy, but for whatever reason, it was not meant to be.

I have been fairly active on Ravelry, and if you look at my Flickr page, there are quite a few photos I’ve been uploading there in the last few weeks. I’ve even considered stopping blogging all together, but it truly is what links me to some very good friends, so I’ve decided to continue for now.

There has been a great deal of knitting happening here at GuiltyPleasures, but I’m not quite finished with those posts, so I thought I’d pass along some information I read and a photo of recently acquired yarn. According to the Blue Moon Fiber Arts blog, they are not only discontinuing some colors in preparation of fall, but they are also raising their prices on August 18th. Normally this news would send me into a panic mode and I’d be buying more fiber that I don’t have storage room for, except that I found this wonderful thing on Ravelry where people are actually selling their yarn for less than they paid for it.

This is BMFA Silike Socks That Rock in the colorway Walking on the Wild Tide. At the BMFA store it’s $24 plus s&h, but I got it off Ravelry for $19 including s&h. Score! I mainly purchased it because I saw this scarf and instantly fell in love.

After I queued my latest find, I took a look at my Raverly projects page, and realized that I’m great at putting up new projects, but horrible about finishing them. I believe this is because I’m more of a process knitter. Most of the projects have been completed and are either waiting to be blocked, or waiting to be blogged. Thankfully the Ravelympics has come along and I’ve joined Team Ho (Hopelessly Overcommitted) and have entered three projects in the WIP Wrestling event. Thankfully I’ve just cast-off two test knits I was working on and now I can fully commit to my other unfinished knitting. So many projects … so little time.

Birthday Hill Climbing

On Thursday, July 10th, I took another step on the birthday hill and I can see the top so clearly, that I’m ready to start walking backwards. No really, I must admit I’m a bit sad to hit 39 years old, but that’s only because my 30’s have been my best years ever!

Since my father’s retirement party was in southern Idaho the day after my birthday, we left on July 8th for our drive from Southern California to Southern Idaho. The drive through southern Utah is so beautiful and I just love this red rock that is everywhere.

Originally I was very worried about the 14 hour drive to my parents home and since fuel costs are so high, we really couldn’t afford to stop and stay at a hotel. I was especially concerned because with my fibromyalgia, you just never know how a lengthy car ride is going to be. Thankfully, my most amazing friend Laura came to the rescue and allowed us use of her timeshare points to stay at the Cedar Breaks Lodge in Brian Head, Utah.

Miraculously the lodge was exactly the midpoint in our trip, so we stayed there the night of the 8th and woke the following day to this beautiful view.

The lodge sits at the base of the Brian Head Ski Resort and I can just picture this all covered in snow. It must be beautiful.

The following day, July 10th, had an auspicious start (that’s a whole other story), but at noon I was surprised by getting to visit the local fiber farm, Hartwell’s Lazy PJ Ranch.

Hubby gave me a card with a bunch of money in it to spend at the fiber farm, and so I got some superwash merino and soysilk fiber, a latern moon spinning basket, some back issues of Spin-Off magazine and a beautiful Gita Marie orifice hook.

Of course the batteries on my camera died. So, I was at the mercy of my mother’s picture taking skills. I won’t humiliate myself with showing the photos of my eyes closed and my tongue sticking out, but I do have this photo of me with a suri alpaca.

After the fiber farm, we had lunch at the local Mexican restaurant and later that day I received a few gifts. My favorite one was this “cake” my sister made me.

It’s a pile of the most delicious chocolate frosting ever with 3 balls of marzipan yarn in the center. I know she was disappointed that she didn’t have time to make me a “real” cake, but she was so busy making the retirement cake for my dad, that I asked her not to make one for me. After that candle was blown out, I asked for a package of graham crackers and scooped up piles of frosting on them. Mmmm …. my favorite.

I love that knitting for babies is quick, but my last experience knitting a baby sweater was semi-frustrating so I was hesitant to try it again. In fact, it’s been a year since I last knit something for a baby, but my baby brother’s wife is expecting their 2nd child in September, so you’ll see a bit of baby knitting here for the next few months.

I started off with the Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket, but now that I’ve taken a close look at it, I’m going to rip it back and start again. I thought adding a complimentary color stripe of the ArtYarns Supermerino would be great, but for this pattern, not so much. I think it looks a little bit like a poo stain on the back and sleeve ends.

Although I was going to tackle the Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Sweater on Two Needles next, I remembered that I’d purchased the Tulips Baby Cardigan kit while I was at Stitches West.

Pattern: Tulips, A Colorful Cardigan for Baby by Lindsay Pekny
Size: 6-9 months
Yarn: Dream in Color Classy
Needles: Knit Picks Options Circular; size 3.75 mm (US 5) and 4.5 mm (US 7)

Raveled here

The kit I purchased included the pattern (for all sizes) and enough yarn of the eight colors needed for this pattern for a 6-9 month old baby. The entire kit cost me $45, and I think I may even have enough yarn remaining to knit one of these for a newborn or maybe even one of those American Girl Dolls that my nieces are crazy about.

From the moment I cast on, until the moment I cast off, I honestly enjoyed knitting this sweater. The pattern is relatively simple and the detail of the i-cord bind off around the edge is the perfect finishing touch.

The yarn is not only a very soft merino and easy to work with, but the subtle color shading is beautiful. I highly recommend this pattern and yarn to anyone needing a baby gift.

I may be slow responding to emails and blog reading for the next week. Hubby and I are driving from California through Nevada and Utah to Idaho on Tuesday morning for my dads retirement party. He is finally retiring on Friday from serving the public as a police officer for 43 years. I’m worried about him retiring though. Law enforcement has been his life and he seems to be a bit depressed lately. Mom mentioned that it might be nice to get him out of his environment and to drive back with us when we return to California. I guess I better get my knitting and spinning projects out of the guest room.

Random Fun

This flickr game is circulating a lot in blogland, so I’m sure you’ve seen it before, but it looked so fun, I jumped on the bandwagon.

The concept:
a. type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. using only the first page, pick an image.
c. copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

I forgot to tell you that June 14th I went to WWKIP Day, although instead of knitting in public, I decided to spin in public. Anne has some great photos of the event on her blog, but this is my favorite photo:

This is a baby alpaca named Seven because he was born 07/07/2007. He was so friendly and cute and made the most adorable sounds. I wanted to take him home, but instead, I took home this:

Why yes, that is an alpaca fleece. I don’t dare tell you how little I paid for it, but now I need to send it off for processing into roving because I’m just not equipped to do that …. yet.

Spinning and Winning

It’s so great to have another FO to blog about, and probably a shock to most of you that I’m posting so soon. Last post was knitting and now for spinning.

My wonderful friend Micki sent this lovely fiber to me as a “welcome to spinning” gift. I loved it when I saw it and loved it even more while I was spinning it.

hand dyed by: PigeonRoof Studios (etsy)
4.1 ounces corriedale
colorway: Dovecote

Spinning thin singles doesn’t seem to be a problem for me, so I did attempt to spin these singles a bit thicker, but staying consistent was more difficult than I thought it would be. Unfortunately there were some thin and thick spots throughout both bobbins of singles and I hoped plying would hide the flaws.

This is the first time I’ve spun yarn that when plied, gives a barberpole-like effect. If I would’ve known what I was doing, I probably could’ve split the fiber in a better way as to not have the same colored single occasionally end up plied together, but this is all a learning experience so it’s not like I’m disappointed. I think it looks pretty good for my fourth handspun skein of yarn.

After plying I checked the wpi (wraps per inch) and it was 18. After I washed, thwacked and hung the yarn to dry, it bloomed and ended up at 16 wpi.

2-ply sportweight
276 yards / 111 grams

Thus far, this is my favorite skein of handspun. I checked my Ravelry queue, and I think I’m going to make the Morning Surf Scarf featured in the current issue of Spin-Off magazine. I found another Raveler who knit the pattern in sport weight yarn casting on 26 sts with a size 3.25mm needle and only used 200 yards. I wonder if I cast on 36 sts if I’ll need more than the 276 yards that this skein has. Does anyone know how to calculate that or do I just jump right in and cross my fingers?

My latest yarn collecting came way by means of a contest. I don’t enter blog contests nearly as much as I used to, but this one caught my eye since it was for a skein of Wollemeise. I’ve repeatedly stalked The Loopy Ewe website during the “sneak-ups” to get my hands on some, but it’s all sold out by the time I get there. Thankfully Emma came to the rescue and put a skein of Wollmeise up as a prize for her blog contest and lucky me, I won.

yarn: Wollmeise Sockenwolle 80/20
colorway: Dani

There’s 574 yards in a 150 gm skein. Unbelievable! Thank you Emma for such a great prize

Laceweight Socks?

Just so you don’t think this is turning into a spinning blog, I do have an old FO to show you. It was started and completed within two days in the month of April. Behind a bit with my blog posting? Me?

I made it through three rounds of Sock Madness 2, and these are the last pair of socks I knit. By the way, I did make it through this round, I just chose not to continue with Round 4 since I was on vacation. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Pattern: Slippin’ Stripin’ Socks by Tina Lorin (Ravelry)
Yarn: Knit Picks Shadow: (1) skein Juniper, (1) skein Vineyard
Needles: Knit Picks Circular size 2.75 mm / US 2

Raveled Here

The yarn is laceweight. Yes, laceweight. There’s no cast on of 130 sts and size 00 needles because you are knitting with 2 strands of yarn held together, which in essence makes it fingering weight. The brilliance of the pattern is that you’re constantly changing the colorway of the 2nd strand of yarn. Not only does this give you great color variations, but will also hold your interest and attention. At least, it did mine.

For example, the ribbing is knit with 2 strands of colorway A, but for the next few rounds, you knit with one strand of colorway A and one strand of colorway B. After a few rounds of that, you drop the one strand of colorway A and add a second strand of colorway B. It goes on like this throughout the pattern and you have to pay attention to get the color sequences just right.

To make things easier on yourself, I recommend splitting your yarn skeins in half, although you can use the inside and outside strands of your skein to eliminate that extra step. Since I was knitting both socks at the same time (because I’m crazy like that), I had to split each of my skeins into these cute little yarn cakes. If you keep each socks yarn in its own plastic bag, it makes everything semi-manageable.

The designer was kind enough to release the pattern as a free Ravelry download, so I’m going to highly recommend you check it out. In fact, I may be knitting this again in the future and experiment a little with adding a 3rd or fourth color. I may even do it with handspun.

And before I forget, I’d recommend weaving your ends in as you go. I’d say trust me on this, but I think this photo speaks louder than words.

Even though I participated in Sock Madness for only 3 rounds, I must thank Carole and Hillary for putting together such a great competitive knit-along. Sock Madness 3 is scheduled to happen next year, so are any of you up to the challenge?