SHEPHERD!

I’m so excited: I have finally started preparing to knit The Shepherd!

Because of the special yarn I’m using, the first step was a bit unusual. Before I swatched, I had to wash my yarn.

The Shepherd & Shearer yarn comes from the mill still full of a LOT of lanolin, grease that helps in milling, and other dirt from the sheep’s life, and from transportation. To get it ready to knit with, I uncoiled each skein so that the yarn hung in nice loose hanks, and then soaked it in room temperature water with some wool wash.

Soaking is essential.

SO MUCH CAME OUT IN THE WATER! Check it out:

The first rinse!

Yes, that water is opaque. I rinsed the yarn several times in clean water, and even did a soak in a sinkful of water with a tablespoon of white vinegar added. The vinegar helps to close up the wool scales.

This process is really useful for yarns that have come almost directly from a farm. It really helps you to know how the yarn will really look and behave once it’s knit into a garment!

Plus, all that lovely lanoliney yarn makes your apartment smell amazing :) I washed both my Shepherd & Shearer yarn and Juniper Moon’s 100% Cormo share yarn at the same time.

Wash yarn: Shepherd & Shearer yarn on the right, 100% cormo wool on the left.

(Cormo yarn on the left, Shepherd & Shearer yarn on the right)

Shepherd & Shearer yarn: Unwashed & skeined on top of washed hanks

Shepherd & Shearer yarn: washed on the left, unwashed on the right

You might not believe it, but in the photo above: those are THE SAME YARN, after washing on the left, and before washing on the right. I KNOW!!! It’s a fairly dramatic transformation. Colour, texture, and loft all change with washing.

Once the yarn was dry, I could not WAIT to swatch.

Unblocked swatch

Here’s my  unblocked swatch. The bits of blue yarn are to help me measure stitches and rows without having to count so much – the method is explained nicely here.

And here’s the blocked version!

Blocked swatch!

Blocking is crucial for cables. It really helps the stitches to even out and sit nicely.

So! Did I get gauge? The blue yarn marks out the pattern’s stated gauge for my size: 26 stitches and 32 rows/4″.

Let’s look at row gauge first, the vertical measurement.

Row gauge: a bit too long

I measured from the top to the bottom of the blue yarn. You can see that it’s a bit too long – closer to 4.25″ than 4″. I’m not too worried about that, because most of the length requirements in the pattern are of the “knit until piece measures x inches or desired length” variety. That means I can easily adjust to get the length I want.

Changing the length of sweaters is virtually always part of my sweater process, because I am very short, and most patterns are written for adults of average height. I want my sweaters to be proportional to my body, so I often shorten both sweater sleeves and sweater bodies.

So! Even though my row gauge is a bit off, I’m okay with it. What about stitch gauge?

With all swatches, but especially with a patterned or textured swatch, it’s super important to think about which part of the fabric you’re measuring. Ideally, you should measure the middle of the swatch, because stitches can be distorted around the edges. With a cable pattern, it’s also possible that the fabric will measure slightly differently at different points in the motif. To get a good idea of the actual dimensions, I measured the stitch gauge at several different spots.

Stitch gauge #1

Here at the top of the swatch, it looks like it’s too big. However, if I had continued in the cable pattern, only 2 rows away would have been a major cable that would have pulled the fabric inwards again. What about further down?

Stitch gauge #2

 

Aha! Here, in the middle of the swatch, it looks like 4″ just about right on (measuring from the edges of the purl sections on either side of the two middle cable sections).

Stitch gauge #3

Stitch gauge #4

 

Closer to the bottom of the swatch, it’s just about 4″ as well. 

I’m happy with this stitch gauge, as well, even though it measured too big in one part of the swatch. When I’m deciding on gauge, I also try to keep in mind the consequences of being a bit off: if my swatch is slightly too big, that means the sweater will be bigger than the stated measurements. With this sweater, that would be okay with me, too: I’ll be knitting the 38″ size, and that should give me about 1.5″ of positive ease. The pattern suggests 2″ of positive ease, but the next size up is 41″, and that’s way too much.

So, knitting the 38″ size at a gauge that might be a teensy bit big will probably give me a sweater that’s slightly larger than 38″ – which is what I’d like to have, anyway. This is something I find really reassuring about swatching and gauge – it lets me decide what size I want, and sometimes what I want is a size between those the pattern provides. 

Now that gauge is sorted, I’m looking forward to casting on for the sweater really soon! 

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Cozy, just in time!

Remember back in the summer when I was working on an Ease sweater (design by Alicia Plummer) in Juniper Moon Farm’s Moonshine yarn?

I finished it! I finally finished all the deadline knitting I had on my needles, and turned back to Ease. I only had to bind off a sleeve and work a few more rows of ribbing on the bottom of the sweater, block, and voila! I knit it more or less to pattern, although as always I adjusted the length and the sleeve length to be right for my body, and I think I worked fewer inches of ribbing than the pattern called for.

Finished!

Lots of ribbing

Ease sleeve

Cozy!

As you can see, Ease is designed to have lots of positive ease, meaning that the sweater is larger than my body. It’s totally a cozy, slouchy, Saturday-afternoon kind of sweater, to me. If I was a leggings person, I’d wear it with leggings and feel totally 80s (but, I am not a leggings person).

The design is quite simple, but with some nice details. I’m very pleased with the deep ribbing on the cuffs and hem, and the wide rolled collar. I also like this yarn/pattern combo because I think it really lets the yarn shine. Moonshine is such a soft yarn, it seems perfect to cuddle up with. And the colour?! It’s called “swimming pool”, and I totally love it (even though I’m still 100% committed to barf green. It’s still my favourite.)

Potato Chip Hexagons

On the Knitmore Girls podcast, they have a name for the kind of knitting where you just want to keep going at every step – just a few more rows, just one more section, just the next stripe. They call it “potato chip knitting”, because you keep wanting just one more!

I’m finding that the hexagons I’m knitting for my Six’es blanket totally feel that way. They are SO addictive! I’ve been finding time to knit them on the bus, mostly, but also in little moments that otherwise wouldn’t be productive: waiting five minutes for some pasta to boil, or keeping busy waiting to meet a friend.

Because there will be over a hundred of them before I finish, and they all need to be blocked before seaming, I’m blocking as I go. Every time I finish a couple, I block them right away. I’ll still block the whole finished blanket at the end, but this will make seaming way more reasonable.

As you can see, pre-blocking, the finished hexagons are pretty gnarly.

Curled up hexagons

My blocking method for them is simple: first, pop them into a sinkful of water (maybe with a few drops of wool wash, if I remember to add it).

Hexabath!

Then, after a good soak, squeeze the water out and pin flat, measuring the sides to make sure that they’re about the same size so they’ll seam together properly.

Hexagon blocking station

As suggested in the pattern, I’ve left long yarn tails at the beginning and end – those tails will be used for seaming at the end, so that the seams will be even less visible. Since they’ll be the same colour as the block they’re next to, they should blend in nicely!

Feline hexagon interaction

Thinking about how each of the different coloured hexagons will look in the finished piece is already making me really happy :) So far I’ve been using scrap yarns, but I’m probably going to pick up some new yarns to add along the way, too.

Hexagons!

 

Knitting these happy little shapes is definitely making me love taking the bus!

The BEST kind of mail :)

I really love receiving mail. Almost anything is good – even catalogues make me smile, usually. But the absolute BEST thing that ever comes in the mail is YARN!

Last week, a package came full of yarn that I’ve been eagerly anticipating. My 2013 Juniper Moon 100% cormo yarn share! If you don’t know about Juniper Moon Farm… it’s amazing. I’ve been a shareholder since 2010, and I cannot speak highly enough of their product, their people, or their values.

This year, along with the share yarn, they sent out gorgeous project bags!

Yarn + project bag!

So pretty!

This is some seriously luscious yarn.

Cormo wool and the skyline

It practically glows, doesn’t it? Turns out someone agrees with me about how interesting this yarn is…

Interested...

Still interested...

Mmmm delicious yarns

What, this isn't for cats?

I think she’s hoping that if she just hangs out near it long enough, I’ll let her have it to play with. (NOPE!)

Look what else was in my package!!!

Look what else was in my package!

Holy gorgeous.

Juniper Moon’s The Shepherd and The Shearer is an amazing project. I am OVER the moon about this yarn, and the patterns that go with it. I am definitely going to be knitting up The Shepherd (designed by the incredible Kate Davies) as soon as I finish the piece of deadline knitting I’m working on right now!

TWO SWEATERS' WORTH OF YARN!

Two sweaters worth of yarn. I cannot even tell you how happy this stuff makes me :) It smells amazing, it came from happy, well-cared for sheep, it was made and marketed by kind, ethical, excellent people, and it’s going to be an absolute delight to knit up. I can’t wait!!!

If I can get it back from the cat.

If I can just wrestle it away from my cat… ;)

Pretty Fall Yellows

Yellow is one of my absolute favourite colours – right behind barf green, of course :)

In my neighbourhood, trees are changing colours, and a few days ago I felt like gorgeous, golden fall yellow was all around me.

Stuck in a grate!

Above :)

A rounder grate!

Floating

 

If it’s fall in your neck of the woods, I hope you’re enjoying all the colours, too :)

I finished a sock!

Hi! Although most of what I’m knitting right now is super secret test knitting, I do have one finished thing to share.

I finished a sock!

Finished sock!

This was actually a sample knit, but it’s finished and sent off, and so not a secret. I knit on this when I was waiting for instructions on my other test knit, and in places where I needed something super small and portable.

I mostly used the Yarn Harlot’s simple sock recipe, but I used an afterthought heel (which she talks about in this blog post). Instead of just cutting the yarn, though, I used this method where you knit the heel stitches in waste yarn, so it’s super easy to remove and pick up live stitches later.

Self striping yarn...

I went for the afterthought heel instead of my usual short row heel because I think it actually preserves the stripes even better than a short row heel does.

I just find self-striping yarns to be so MAGICAL. They start out looking all crazy…

...is magical

And you end up with perfect stripes!

This yarn is particularly nice – it’s from Vancouver’s aptly named Rain City Knits (There is sooo much in their shop that I love. Whoa.), in a colourway called “Local Sports Team”. I’ll let you guess which sports team it (probably ;) ) represents!

Something for your eyeballs!

I don’t know about you, but I really like listening to or watching things while I’m knitting, especially if what I’m knitting isn’t too complicated. This week, I stumbled across two different hour-ish long BBC special programs that were really wonderful. You might enjoy them, too :)

First, “The Fabric of Britain: Knitting’s Golden Age”! It follows some milestones in the history of British knitting throughout most of the twentieth century. There is some amazing material (PUN ALERT) in this program. I especially loved the bits about knitting for the war effort during WWII, and the amazing, crazy, over the top colourwork sweaters worn by TV newscasters later in the 20th century.

The second awesome program, which you should really, really watch, is “Fabulous Fashionistas”. It contains interviews with six amazing women, all over the age of seventy, who are more fashionable than I have any hope of ever being. Their life philosophies, love of colour and style, and desire to keep enjoying life and attracting attention are, not to be cheesy here, completely inspiring. I loved loved loved this program – don’t miss it!

What are you watching or listening to? I am always looking for new things to keep my eyes and ears busy :)