FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and The Dewberry Cowl

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

I decided to go all out with my gift knitting for Christmas 2015. The list started out small - less than 5 pieces - before growing and growing and growing just a little bit more. When all was said and done, I had knit a shawl, a cowl, a hat, 4 washcloths, a pair of slippers, 2 pairs of wrist cuffs, a bear & bunny duo, and one golden bear. Plus, there was that skein of handspun. This was a pretty ambitious list considering that I skipped holiday gift knitting the previous years. I’m pretty sure the only reason I was able to get everything done was because I’d committed to #yearofmaking, and had built a habit of making something every day. Even a few stitches a day can add up to something really big.

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com
The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

What do you knit for the lace knitter that loves fantasy and general geekery? Fantasy themed lace, of course! The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl fit the bill, and had the added bonus of a reversible stitch pattern. 

I had a few hiccups reading the pattern and had to rip out a few times - once all the way back to the beginning - but the knitting was fairly easy once I figured out the rhythm and quirks of the design. It was also my first time using Dream in Color Smooshy which was lovely. The shawl was also great tv knitting aside from that one time I really messed up the lace pattern. (Note to self: Don’t stay up to 2AM knitting lace. You’re just going to give yourself a headache and a giant time suck the next morning.)

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, blocking is magic. Once the shawl was bound off with a ridiculously stretchy decrease bind off, it looked small and crumpled. Even knowing how blocking can transform a piece, I was still nervous that the finished shawl wouldn’t be a worthy gift. I needn't have worried. 

The shawl got a nice long soak before I stretched and pinned it to an inch of its life. Flexible blocking wires made shaping and pulling out the points so much simpler and quicker then working with only pins. Inserting the wires and shaping the shawl still took at least 30 minutes though. When that work was done, instead of a small and crumpled shawl, the crescent was long and delicate. The yarn overs had popped open, the columns were visible, and every leaf was distinct. Whew…

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

Pattern: Crescent Over Lothlorien by Cordula Surmann-Schmitt 

Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy - Icy Reception

Needles: US 4 (3.5mm) circulars

Date: September 12 - October 23, 2015

@Ravelry 

I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

The second gift knit was the Dewberry Cowl which I've wanted to make since I first saw it. I like the combination of lace and garter stitch. I like the shape and how it’s worn. I liked how it could be a showcase for lots of different yarn. Plus, I thought the recipient would like it too which is always an important thing to consider when making gifts. Can’t just make stuff you like after all.

It was a pretty quick knit even considering that I had to rip it out - totally my own fault - and make it bigger. The pattern calls for an aran weight yarn, but I mistakenly picked out a DK weight instead. Mrs Crosby Carpet Bag is a beautiful silk wool single and I don’t regret picking it at all. 

I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com
I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

Mailing these goodies off was hard but, I’ve got the patterns and plenty of worthy yarn. I already have the perfect skein picked out for my Dewberry.

Pattern: Dewberry by Hillary Smith Callis 

Yarn: 1 skein Mrs Crosby Carpet Bag - Hollywood Cerise

Needles: US 6 (4mm) circulars

Date: October 26 - November 4, 2015

@Ravelry

Handspun Present Cowl

Once upon a time, I got a text message from a friend of mine. We live on opposite sides of the country so texting is the main way we keep in touch. Most of the time we talk knitting and yarn. She also reads this blog. After reading so many posts about my spinning and my ready-to-knit skeins of handspun, she asked if I had ever knit with any of it. A perfectly valid question. I referred her to Exhibit A, a pair of mitts knit from my first 3-ply yarn, and a shawl I was ripping out. Out of the dozens of skeins I’ve spun over the years, I’ve only knit with 2 of them. After I hit send, she threw down the gauntlet. Knit with my handspun or face the consequences. I’m not really sure what those consequences were, but I’m sure they were dire.

I choose a freshly spun skein and went looking for a pattern. I had enough yardage for a cowl and eventually picked the Present Cowl by Mademoiselle C. The cowl was a quick knit where the handspun was the star of the show. I knit it up last year but took my sweet time to block it. Still wore it though with the ends tucked out of the sight. When I flew back to Birmingham for a visit, the cowl came with me so I could prove that I actually had knit my own handspun. Consequences averted. Whew.  

When I dunked the cowl into the water, I was curious if blocking would change the gauge and drape of the piece. Before knitting, the handspun got it’s own bath to set the twist when it came off the bobbin. Would that soak be enough to prevent changes in the knitted fabric? Nope. After blocking, the stitches noticeably relaxed. The fabric had more drape and the cowl grew taller and wider. It’s still the right size to wear without collapsing so I’m happy. The moral of the story is swatching is important whether you’re working with commercial or handspun yarn.

The finished cowl is warm, comfy, and looks great with my favorite coat. It’s also good protection from all the wind whipping through my neighborhood. Now I just have to wait for the temperature to get cold enough to wear it.

Since knitting up this skein, I’ve knit one other project with handspun which I’ll be sharing soon. I also have my eye on another handspun skein that I wound but never knit. So, I’m passing the challenge on to you. Have tons of handspun that you’ve never knit with? Grab a skein and knit it up! The consequences of #handspunchallenge will be fun, wooly, and anything but dire. 

Pattern: Present Cowl by Mademoiselle C

Yarn: 2 ply handspun Malabrigo Nube - Arco Iris

Needles: US 8 (5 mm) circulars

Dates: August - September 2014

@Ravelry

Spinning Malabrigo Arco Iris

When this skein was freshly dry from its bath, it was my absolute favorite. One Tour de Fleece and a few more skeins of handspun later, it’s still my favorite. The colors are amazing, the yarn is ridiculously soft, and it has great density.

Way back in June, I was ready to spin Arco Iris but had no clear vision of how. So the fiber got to lead the way. Once I unbraided the bump, it was clear that was absolutely no chance of spinning identical singles. The colors were randomly dyed without a single discernible repeat. Spinning a 3-ply was out because it would muddy the colors. Chain-plying was out too because I wanted as much yardage as possible. Instead of going through some fiddly process, I decided to keep things simple since the colors were complicated enough all ready. Split the fiber in half lengthwise and spun the 2 pieces from opposite ends. Then I plied, let the yarn rest on the bobbin, and dunked it in the sink with some Eucalan. The only handling the wet skein got before hanging up to dry was a few pops over my hands. No thwacking against a shower wall or other stress relief.

The soak plumped up the yarn considerably. Before the bath, the yarn averaged 9 WPI, basically a worsted weight. The bath turned into an aran weight with an average of 8 WPI. It’s still a much denser yarn than I usually spin. The past few months have seen me trying to spin thinner and thinner yarns which usually meant double-drafted woolen creations. For whatever reason this bump of fiber wanted to be heavy and smooth. I’m not one to argue with wool so I went with it. Spun it inchworm style and went against every screaming urge I had to draft it finer. Sometimes I let to much twist into the fiber and snapped the single. Sometimes I had a good flow going. Drafting inch-worm is definitely something I still need to practice. The resulting yarn is a bit thick and thin but plying fixed many of its ills.

The yarn was content to sit on the shelf for the past few months but no longer. I might gotten a little distracted from writing the first draft of this post looking at cowl* patterns. After an exhaustive search through Ravelry and Pinterest, Present by Mademoiselle C wins by a landslide. The cowl looks like fun travel knitting and a great showcase for handspun. Not going to wait to get started.  


The Specs

Fiber: Malabrigo Nube - 4 oz Merino

Color: Arco Iris

Yardage: 202 + 29 yds

Dates: June 22- July 2014


 *I’m a little late joining the cowl party.

Surprise Stash

Last week, entirely of his own free will, The Bearded One went to a yarn shop to buy me an anniversary gift. That’s love for you. The people working there made sure he knew all about the shop’s return policy. Don’t worry, yarn shop people, he knows what I like and I’m not returning a single thing.

The first thing I unwrapped was a bump of Malabrigo Nube in Arco Iris. It is unbelievably soft and the colors are lovely. Can’t decide if I should spin it up as soon as the current proto-yarn is finished or wait until Tour de Fleece. Should probably figure out what I want the end project to be first. Cowl? Shawl? Hat?

Next up, 2 skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino. Just like the Nube, it is ridiculously soft and the colors are wonderful. The added silk gives the yarn a beautiful luster. Couldn’t help perusing Ravelry to find the perfect pattern and I didn’t need to search long. The Duotone Cowl is a simple striped cowl that’ll show off the yarn and be great mindless knitting. Really, I’m surprised I haven’t cast on already.

Howlcat

The versatility of a knitted tube and the creativity of the people designing them never fails to amaze me. Add heels and a toe and it’s a sock. Add in a few crown decreases and it’s a hat. Join one tube to two other tubes and it’s a sweater. Or just a tube. It can be a mug cosy, a pair of fingerless gloves, leg warmers, a pencil grip, or a pillow. I could go on but then I’d have to break out the bullet points. In this case, the humble tube of knitting is a Howlcat which is both a hat and a cowl by Alex Tinsley.

Howlcat1.jpg

Pattern: Howlcat by Alex Tinsley of Dull Roar

Yarn: Knit Picks Swish (Dark Navy) and Knit Picks Stroll (Pumpkin)

Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm)

Dates: February 6 - 20, 2012

@Ravelry

This bit of knitting is for the Bearded One who, when I asked if he wanted a scarf or a cowl, said both.  I fiddled around with designing a cowl pattern to match his favorite hat but no luck. I am having better luck with the scarf though. Anyway, at one fateful knit night, someone reminded me of this pattern and the cowl dilemma was solved. The knitting was simple, good for running about town, and great for when I wanted to knit without thinking. 

It’s been a big hit too. Warm, cosy, and infinitely wearable. The following are Bearded One approved ways to wear the Howlcat.

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As a hat with a twist and the bottom layer folded over.

Howlcat2.jpg

As a cowl with one color folded over scrunched up.

Howlcat4.jpg

A hungry, hungry stocking cap.

Howlcat5.jpg
Howlcat3.jpg

When he annoys me.

In The Works

Today I was the strange neighbor. The one that you watch through a slit in the blinds and wonder just what the hell they’re doing on the back porch. The answer, my friends, if photographing knitting. Lots and lots of knitting. I’ve got stuff in the works after all. 

HowlcatWIP.jpg

This bit of the work in progress is a Howlcat (@Ravelry) for the Bearded One. Yes, that is orange and navy blue.* It’s been my travel knitting of late and I’m rather enjoying the process. First, it was a bunch of ribbing and now it’s a bunch of stockinette. Just stitch, after stitch, after stitch. Nothing mind blowing or extravagant but amazing and happy all the same. Isn’t it great how one stitch builds on another to make something larger than itself?

*War Eagle!