Magnetic North Mash Potato Socks

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A lot of yarns do not photograph well or consistently due to their color and/or texture. This yarn from the fantastic Indie dyer Lauren of Old Rusted Chair is one of them, despite being among the most beautiful colorways I have ever seen. This magical, speckled, blue/purple tonal colorway is called “Magnetic North,” and I have found the camera is not fond of it or of most any bright cool-toned yarns, especially periwinkle shades like the above. Yet, after a little elbow grease I managed to get a couple of decent shots. Just trust me that in real life this yarn is to die for!

The pattern is called Mash Potato Socks and is authored by Verena Cohrs of The Wool Club. The stitch pattern creates a lovely texture, but yes, it does get a little tedious and mind numbing after a while. I knit mine two-at-a-time and worked a Fish Lips Kiss Heel in lieu of the heel flap.

My Mash potato socks turned out a little big around the circumference of my foot, which is strange because I went with the second smallest size, and with a foot circumference of 9″ I have never knit a pattern in the smallest size, so perhaps I knit the pattern stitches too loosely. All in all it was a lovely pattern that I will likely knit again, only in the smallest size.

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Below you can see delicious detail of the Magnetic North yarn. Ugh, I just sighed. Again. It always has that affect on me!

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Aila Tank

I found the pattern for the Aila Tank on Ravelry late last spring, and while I started knitting it in early summer it took me nearly a year to complete it. Why, you ask? See below…

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The pattern, written by Isabell Kraemer, calls for the Quince and Co yarn Sparrow, which is 100% organic linen in a fingering weight. If you’ve visited Quince and Co’s website then you know that picking a color is no small task. (There are literally dozens of colors from which to choose for nearly all of their yarns.) However, for the Aila tank I was drawn to this scrumptious 24-karat gold, called Maize, like a moth to a flame. And that was that.

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I can’t recall having knit with linen before, and I learned a few things. Linen yarn is stiff and ropy, much like bamboo, and was not easy for me to knit with. It felt like it retained some memory, and the wiriness kept curling away from me and slowing down my knitting. Furthermore it was nowhere near as comfortable on the fingers as wool, which is my favorite fiber and pretty much everyone else’s. Nevertheless this rigidity makes for exceptional stitch definition (hence, Kraemer’s wise inclusion of lace for the bottom of the tank). The downside is that great stitch definition renders the knitting less forgiving, so mistakes stick out like a sore thumb (I was fortunate to catch and correct mine early), and it became clear that I needed to keep my joins at the seams like my life depended on it and weave in the ends very neatly on the inside to avoid unwanted bumpy regions.

Not only was I a bit surprised by the linen’s stiffness but I was actually a little shocked at its weight. For a fingering yarn it felt quite heavy. One 4-ply 50-gram skein of Sparrow measures 168 yards; by comparison, one 4-ply 50-gram skein of Finch (a 100% wool Quince and Co fingering weight yarn) measures 221 yards. Wearing the tank leaves no doubt as to its heaviness. It almost tugs on rather than hangs from the shoulders, like there’s a kid down there pulling on the hem. This sensation is not something I am accustomed to in a summer tank.

All this is not to say I don’t adore my Aila tank, because I do! After washing and blocking the tank is comfortably airy and drapes quite nicely. They say you can even throw handknit linen garments into the dryer, but I wanted to spread out the lace and air dry my Aila for best effect. I knit mine a little big for that flowy, oversized look that I’m in love with right now. It might not be cozy, but sometimes cozy is overrated–especially in summer, right? The simple lace design is quite stunning upon completion, but without the linen it would have been far less visible. The linen is what makes this pattern top-notch.

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I find that the yarn and pattern are a perfect match, and I plan to wear this tank all summer long!

Handspun Kitschy Kat

Yesterday I whipped up my first toy made from my own handspun yarn, and I could not be happier with the outcome!

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This kitty pattern is called Kitschy Kat and is authored by Susan Claudino. (Yup, one and the same author of Figaro, which I just finished a couple of weeks ago.) You can purchase and download the Kitschy Kat pattern from Ravelry here.

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This merino wool fiber is from Hey Lady Hey in the colorway “Moon Boots.” There is nothing better than that teal and orange with pink, purple lime and blue nuances. It’s HEAVENLY. Being a newby spinner, I can’t yet get my plied singles any finer than a thick-and-thin worsted weight, so that’s exactly how this handspun turned out. Even so, this type of yarn has its uses and frankly seemed destined for a project like Kitschy Kat.

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Since I was working with handspun I had to make a couple of adjustments to the pattern. To see my notes visit my Ravelry Kitschy Kat project page here.

Figaro the Frog

I’ve knit several toys for my kids over the years–two snakes, a doll, reversible dolls, a bear, a reversible lion/elephant, a reversible baby alligator/egg and a Santa, to name a few. For well over a year toys were my primary focus in knitting. I wanted to knit them all, specifically toy patterns by Susan B Anderson. All are excellent patterns.

Recently, however, when I decided it was high time I knit another toy for my sentimental, knit-loving son, I went with a different author: Susan Claudino. When I spied the Figaro pattern on Ravelry last year I declared it to be the cutest frog pattern I’ve ever seen and added it to my queue straightaway. While I did discover that those twelve little toes are nightmarishly tedious to knit, they are what distinguishes this frog from all the others. Add to that the eyes, mouth and gigantic head, and this frog pattern is an absolute winner.

We are a frog-loving family and greatly enjoy the countless tree frogs that live around our home. We see two species regularly: the Green tree frog and Cope’s Gray tree frog. I knew I wanted to go in a less orthodox direction and not with the typical green color, so after a bit of stash diving I pulled out a skein of Hey Lady Hey DK in the colorway “Vine Whip.” I see this yarn as a whimsical interpretation of the Cope’s Gray tree frog.

As expected, Figaro is a huge hit with my son. He loves the speckled yarn, the eyes and toes, and especially the movability of the mouth, whose expression can be made into a smile, pout or frown. This feature was a nice little touch added by the author.

While Figaro was not the easiest toy to knit, I greatly enjoyed the process, and the pattern is perfect. If my son takes good care of him I believe Figaro will be a part of our family forever.

 

Cushman Sweater

When I first saw the Cushman Pullover on Instagram I had an instant must-have reaction. The pockets are adorable, plus it is knit up in Malabrigo Rios, an aran weight yarn–meaning it will be a cozy, super fast knit.

The pattern, which is written by Isabell Kraemer, is found in the Malabrigo Book Ten: Rios pattern book. This project is my first completed by Kraemer, but I have another WIP (Aila tank). Both patterns are well written, and the styles are very cute. I have several of her other patterns in my queue. To purchase and download the Cushman Pullover pattern, click here.

For my yarn choice I went with Rios Ilusion. It wasn’t an easy choice given that Malabrigo has dozens of rich colorways from which to choose. Much like its name, Ilusion has the mystifying effect of appearing quite differently in various light settings (see above). Furthermore, from a distance Ilusion appears purple to grayish purple; up close, however, the yarn reveals itself in muted jewel tones. This type of property involuntarily causes me to gleefully rub my hands together and open my eyes really wide like an excited monkey.

It took me over five months to complete this sweater, but that was mostly due to Christmas knitting and other projects. I’m a polygamous knitter, so I’m constantly bouncing around on various projects because I lack the focus to do otherwise. Needless to say when I was working on the Cushman it went quickly, as expected. The pattern is straightforward. The pockets were not difficult, and since I knit the sleeves two-at-a-time via magic loop, they were a cinch.

Instructions for Knitting Sleeves Two-at-a-Time

Knitting sleeves two-at-a-time enables you to knit them to a consistent length as well as maintain the same tones from a single skein. The negative is that you cannot try them on easily for sizing (although it is doable), so you have to knit them to your measurements. To knit the sleeves two-at-a-time for this project divide the held sleeve stitches roughly in half for each sleeve at the armpit and top of the shoulder, so that you have stitches for the Front Right (FR), Back Right (BR), Front Left (FL) and Back Left (BL). (The armpit will be the end of the round for each sleeve.) Then pull your needles for magic loop through all held stitches in this order: BR armpit to shoulder, FL armpit to shoulder, BL shoulder to armpit and FR shoulder to armpit. The BR and FL stitches will be on one needle and the BL and FR stitches on the other. In order to get the needles through all stitches the sleeves will have to be folded over each other and twisted slightly as shown above. You can then knit the pattern as stated, starting with the BR stitches and copying the instructions for each sleeve.

First sweater of the year complete! My only issue is that the bottom of the sweater is knit with a warmer skein, so as you can see above the bottom two-fifths is a slightly different shade. I forgot to check the dye lots before beginning, and I did not notice the gradual increase in warmth until it was too late (too late for my stubbornness). Oh, well. My husband thinks it looks better for it, and perhaps over time I’ll think the same.

The Eyeball Shawl

Is there anything better than a gigantic knit eyeball? I say no!

With one quick glance we all know it’s a West Knits pattern. Like most all of Stephen’s patterns the Eyeball Shawl is bold, eccentric and brilliant–did I say eccentric? In fact many of his patterns are a bit too eccentric for me, simply because I don’t like to dress in a way that calls attention to myself. Slap a neutral-colored knit over my body, and I will gladly fade into the background. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy working with bright colors and striking patterns, and perhaps one day I will burst from my shell in a massive display of color. Baby steps.

Yarn selection for this shawl was tricky. The pupil and iris are the focal point (pun intended) of the shawl, and I wanted them to contrast with each other but also coordinate with the white of the eye in a pleasing way. I did a great deal of color research and ultimately decided on the following yarns for what I consider to be the perfect eyeball trinity (from left to right): Old Rusted Chair Sock in “Blue-Eyed Floozy”; Woolen Boon Boon Classic in “I Heart Lisa Frank”; and LITLG (Life in the Long Grass) Fine Sock in “Stone Collector.”

Aside from the entirely (and delightfully) in-the-round construction and beauty of this pattern, the Eyeball Shawl called to me as more than a mere shawl knitting project. I have always been fascinated by the eye as a symbol, and knitting a colorful, jumbo eyeball was an opportunity on which I could not pass.

Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.

–Helen Keller

I find these words astonishing. How did Keller’s blindness increase her vision, rather than abate it? Doubtless her disability taught her that the eye is much more than an organ for absorbing the images around us. The eye conveys how we feel. It cries. It laughs. It can even glower. The eye is the window to the soul, the lens to the mind; it is a powerful transmitter of who we are. As has probably been said before, almost as much can be seen from the outside of the eye looking in as from the inside looking out.

Keller’s words resonate strongly with my teachings to my children: Be confident. Face reality. Communicate how you feel. Be true. All of these things are important because they define our relationships with the people in our lives. Nothing could be more meaningful.

Now–while I think this shawl looks amazing draped and blinking over the shoulders–do I wear it, or hang it in my living room to watch over my family? Decisions…The all-seeing knit shawl–that’s a first!

Pixel Rise Christmas Frankensocks

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The Pixel Rise socks pattern, written by Kemper Wray, makes fine use of fair isle as one pixelated stripe graduates to the next. The pattern begins with a Turkish cast-on, which I worked two-at-a-time, and even now I can’t tell you how I pulled it off. I will definitely be using this excellent cast-on method many times more, so I suppose I’ll have to figure it out all over again when I do. For the heel I worked my very favorite heel, the Fish Lips Kiss Heel. (While the pattern calls for an afterthought heel, I am not a fan.)

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Now for the yarn! All those delicious little mini bobbins comprise the Christmas Frankensocks kit dyed and assembled by Havirland Yarns. (You can find Carol, the owner of Havirland, on Instagram as @havirland). I was obsessed with this kit the moment I saw it because 1) I love Christmas and 2) I am sick of plain old red and green combos. Carol’s colorful yet conservative Christmas vision is my dream come true. Plus the mildly Christmas-y color scheme permitted me to finish these guys well past the holidays because I didn’t feel the least bit queasy working on something Christmas-y in February–a true first for me!

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The embarrassing picture below shows one of the socks turned inside out so that you can see my stranding when working the fair isle repeats. You might be thinking, ‘Why is she embarrassed?’ Well, if you look closely you will see that I twisted the strands after EVERY SINGLE STITCH. This tedious stranding method highlights the severity of my knitting OCD. I cannot handle the idea of pulling on a sock and having a pinky toe caught in one of those strands! However, if you twist after every single stitch, there is no worry. Nutcase, right?

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It goes without saying that I am eager to wear my Pixel Rise socks this Christmas, but I’ll certainly be slipping them on well before then because I know I won’t be able to help myself.

The sock blockers below are from AlexWorkshopDesign on Etsy.

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