Koivua Days in my Garden

What a wonderful week it has been. I’ve been out in the yard for a couple of hours every day with MacKenzie and a book or my knitting. The buzz of cicadas echo in the trees over my head, the squirrels frolic along the fence, and the flowers are starting to bloom again after the blazing heat of July. Life is good, I’ve raced through two books and last week started a couple of new knitting projects that are keeping my interest and making me happy. Let me show off my current knitting love, Koivua.

How beautiful is this!! I’ve just separated the arms from the body of the sweater and it is time for me to attach the rose yarn again to start the next colorwork chart for the body. Here are my project notes if you want more info about the yarns. The flowering plant is lantana, and it just burst back into bloom this week. This is what happens when you give plants some Miracle Gro… I’m wondering if this plant will survive the winter if I plant it at the end of the season. It will be a plant experiment!
Sweater in progress.
Sturgill sweater.
Original yarn choices… NOPE!

I had some issues with the planning of this sweater. The pink is left over from this sweater that I knitted last winter, Sturgill by Caitlin Hunter. I really liked the contrast of the rose variegated yarn with the grey, so I ran right out and bought some grey tweed yarn to use with  my leftover rose yarn to make a Koivua. Good plan, right? Then I thought about things a little more. Looking at my Sturgill you can see that the variegated nature of the two yarns made it hard to see the colorwork pattern in the sweater. I liked that effect in Sturgill, but maybe I shouldn’t make another sweater that had the same fuzzy pattern effect going on with the same colorways. I snuck out to the yarn store and bought some yarn that would give me more contrast with the variegated rose yarn. I was on the hunt for a nice neutral cream yarn.

Bingo! Look at what I found at the yarn store that opened just a few miles away from me. This Kelbourne Scout is a new yarn for me, but this won’t be the last time I buy it! It isn’t superwash, but it is really bouncy and soft. Just what I needed to show off the pattern.

Buying 5 skeins of yarn puts me back a little on my yarn destash project, so I need to really start knitting fast now. I casted right on and after a couple of days I had this:

The cream yarn knitted up wonderfully: it is bouncy, has a slight halo, and shows off the pattern well. I’m happier than ever about the yarn color switch as this cream really brightens up the rose yarn.

I’m much happier with the cream colored yarn than I thought I would be. I tend to avoid light colors in yarns, but this time it was the right decision as the colors in the rose yarn are just shining. The yarn is such a joy to handle I’ve been working outside in my garden swing in the late mornings with little gardening breaks.

Butterflybush bloom
My butterfly bush is finally getting its act together and producing some blooms. Okay, I had to baby it a little bit; I sprayed all the baby blooms with Neem oil to protect them from insects and then started deep soaking the bush a couple times a week using a big bucket and a drip line. Success! Doesn’t this bloom remind you of the yarn in my new sweater?  I probably should give this bush some Miracle Gro too.

I am on fire to get the sweater done by the end of the month, but that probably won’t happen since I need to keep on babying my wrists (which are much better), and life keeps on getting in the way. Still, I am hopeful that the next report on my destash project will be a good one. 50 skeins… I can do it… must stay out of the yarn stores…

It feels like the height of summer with the flowers and the buzz of insects, but there are a lot of crickets and some of the leaves on the trees are starting to turn yellow. The kids in the neighborhood have all returned to school, and it is only a few weeks away from the colors of fall. Yep. Must knit faster!!

Update on the Suburban Wrap:

The wrap arrived safely in California earlier this week and it has already gone to school!

My knitworthy niece is a music teacher, and the wrap traveled to school with her as she met her students this week.
Where it also looks pretty good on my grandniece, who is a student at the school where my niece teaches. How fitting that this wrap should be in a classroom devoted to artistic expression and worn by such knitworthies!

The Yarn Destash Resolution: 3 Month Report

Right at the start of this year I cleaned out my yarn stash and made myself face a brutal truth: there is a lot of yarn in there. Maybe more than I can use in my lifetime. Maybe I should start to make a conscious effort to decrease the size of my stash…

Yarn stash.
Behold the yarn stash. 

Thus a New Year’s resolution was born: get at least 50 skeins of yarn out of the stash!! I made some basic rules, started a spreadsheet to track my progress, cast on some projects and got into action.

After 3 months I am happy to report that I have made some significant progress. Really, I’ve done a pretty good job of cleaning  yarn out of the bins above. I’ve actually emptied two bins!!

Details of the mitt.
I’ve made two pairs of mitts, these fabulous mitts above for a Knitworthy niece and a pair of thrummed mitts. Okay, these projects really were fussy and slowed me down. They were a lot of time and work, but will be prized possessions for years to come. Total skeins used: 2
Cowl on wooden bear.
In the gloomy days of winter I whipped out two different cowls, a Clinkerbell cowl and this Dissent Cowl. Total skeins used: 3
Finished sweater on the Mother of Cats.
The big workhorses in stash depletion were two sweaters that took time to knit, but really ate up the yarn mileage. This Sturgill sweater and the Daelyn were both knit from the top down and were fast knitting once I hit the stockinette-in-the-round portions of the sweaters. Total skeins used: 12

Have you been keeping count? The above projects used up a whopping 17 skeins of yarn and there were some other small projects that used up 4 more skeins over the last three months; 2 shawls and a pair of socks.

Did you do the math? So far this year I have knitted my way through 21 skeins of yarn!! I am well on the pace to finish off 50 skeins before the end of the year.

Through all of this knitting my trusty feline sidekick (and taskmaster) has been at my side and on my knitting, kneading the fabric into shape (with his now cut off claws!) and chomping on my yarn.

Cat sleeping in shawl.
Seriously. Every project I knit has pictures of him as close as he can get to the action. This is a shot of him on my Color Study shawl. 
Cat and toy mouse.
So of course I made a little mouse using yarn from the Daelyn sweater.

So there it is. Three months. 21 skeins of yarn used up. Things are going well and I’m feeling pretty good about getting at least 50 skeins cleared from the stash.

It was with this cocky and self-assured “I-am-a-knitting-machine”  attitude that I went to the Interweave Yarn Fest last week and hit the marketplace with my BKB Deb. Oops. You might say that I fell off the “buy no yarn” wagon.

But that is another post.

MacKenzie Speaks: The Sturgill Sweater is Done.

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Ornry cat snoozing on beautiful Fair Isle knitting.
I’ve been napping on the new sweater as much as possible.

The Mother of Cats has continued to knit like crazy on her new sweater. I’ve been giving her tons of help, but she doesn’t seem to appreciate me the way she should. She continues to freak out every single time that I put a claw on her sweater; she always grabs my paw and WON’T LET ME TOUCH THE SWEATER WITH MY PAWS!! I do not understand why she is acting this way. So selfish, the Mother of Cats!

Trimmed claws on the ornry cat that make him knitting friendly.
Look at what she did to me!!

The Mother of Cats is so unstable and difficult to work with. After I snagged her knitting only a couple of times she grabbed me and CUT MY NAILS!!! Can you see the damage in the picture?

Ornry cat snoozing on knitting with his paws on the work.
After my nails were cut she started letting me sleep on her knitting. Ah. So much better. This sweater is so, so comfy.
Finished sweater on the Mother of Cats.
Tonight she finished the sweater and put it on. NOOO!!! What will I sleep on now?

The Mother of Cats pulled out a lot of yarn this evening and started knitting on new projects, lots of new projects, lots of new yarns. She let me help and I got to chomp at least three different colors. One has cashmere… my favorite!! Wait until I get to show that yarn off.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is Sturgill by Caitlin Hunter. My project notes on Ravelry are here.
  • I finished the sleeves before completing the body as I was worried about running out of yarn and was considering options. I completed only a couple of inches of sleeve ribbing and paced the stitches on holders so I could match to the body of the sweater later (see below).
  • The sweater is knit with DK weight yarn, but I ran out of the main color (dark grey) before I finished the body of the sweater. I had a skein of fingering in the same colorway (Man in Black by Stitch Together) so I blended that yarn held doubled with the DK by alternating rows for several rounds and then completed the body with the doubled fingering. It was a great match.
Details of yarn in the sleeve ribbing.
Here is a close-up of the ribbing showing the doubled fingering mixed with the DK weight yarn. Don’t those colors look good?! All the ribbing on the body and most of the sleeve ribbing was done with the doubled fingering yarn. 
  • Once the body of the sweater was completed I did the same blending trick with the sleeve ribbing and then added another 4″ to the sleeve ribbing to get a total of 6″ ribbing. Sleeves fit perfect!
  • After wet blocking the two weights of yarn look identical in the sweater. Win!
  • MacKenzie has already gotten over the cutting of his claws since it allowed him to plant himself constantly on my knitting…
Spoiled and ornry cat sleeping on sweater.
As far as MacKenzie is concerned the new sweater is a bed for him…
  • Now that I’m done with all of my current WIPs it is time to go crazy and cast on lots of new projects. Wait until I can show off the next wave of knitted yumminess.

Snowmageddon Knitting

Hey, Snowmageddon came, Snowmageddon raged, Snowmageddon left. I don’t mean to be flippant here; this was a really serious storm here in Colorado and we are still in recovery mode. The house shook with the wind, the windows were plastered with snow,  drifts blocked both doors, and there is a new damp stain on one upstairs ceiling. Now, two days after the storm the melt-off is in full swing, the emergency shelters are once again empty, abandoned cars are getting dug out, and the power company is working around the clock to restore power. It will take days to get things closer to normal, but we are getting there.

Face of bear statue buried in snow drift.
I am a lucky, lucky girl. I never lost power, my new furnace kept me warm and toasty, and my neighbors dug out my walks and driveway before I even got up the next morning. 

MacKenzie and I knitted our way right through the storm. Really, best knitting weather ever. Look at what we got done:

Sweater in progress.
I now have both sleeves done on the new Sturgill sweater and am back to working on the body. Why did I do the sleeves before finishing the body? Two words: yarn chicken!!
Socks.
We also took a break from the sweater to work on some simple socks. Hey. They match the sweater!
Cat on shoveled path through the snow.
Today I shoveled a path through the snow on the deck so MacKenzie could go outside. I’m not sure that he appreciated my efforts all that much…
Snow on bush.
…and it is clear that it will be several days before he can hang out under his favorite shrub again. Poor MacKenzie. Cats hate snow!
Happy cat wearing knitted project.
But they sure do help knitting!!

Today it is bright and sunny outside and I’m ready to head off to complete chores for the weekend. Then it will be time for more knitting. I am dying to get the sweater done before it is too warm to wear it!

After all, it is only 5 days until the start of spring.

Have a great (knitting) weekend, everyone!

Waiting for Snowmageddon

I woke up this morning to a warm, sunny day and a cell phone full of alerts. Well, look at that! A weather alert had been declared overnight for my area.

The knitworthy niece showing off her fabulous mitts!!
But in sunny California my KNITWORTHY niece is rocking her new mitts that I made for her. Did you ever see a happier recipient of a knitted item? She posted the picture to Facebook last night and my phone was also full of reactions to her picture. That’s what I’m talking about! Knitworthy.

The panic was in full swing when I looked at my phone. The schools were already closed for tomorrow. The city was advising that I get essential supplies and that I should plan on staying home tomorrow. There was a note about taking care of animals and checking the furnace. The county sent a message warning that they would try to keep “snow route” roads open, but they couldn’t make any guarantees.  By the afternoon the National Weather Service had put out a blizzard warning, and by this evening the weather forecasters were talking about a possible “bomb cyclone“.

Cat face.
Cats do not like snow!! They aren’t really sure what “bomb cyclones” are, but they can’t be good. Cats dislike “bomb cyclones” and blizzards even more than they dislike snow.

There have been several storms and a lot of avalanches this month, some of which came across the major interstate freeway through the mountains. Here in Colorado we usually get snow in March (it is the snowiest month for us), but this is ridiculous!

All right then… not a moment to spare! I sprang into action and hit the road. Essentials for the storm include: gas for the car, groceries (including salmon and avocadoes… I believe in civilized snow emergencies!), a blood draw at Kaiser, and books from the library. I grabbed a Starbucks latte for a treat and headed home to get shovels and other gear ready for the storm. I now have yummy food, lots of projects, and good books to keep me company. Bring it on, Mother Nature, I am ready to go. MacKenzie, not so much, but that is the way it is for cats, I’m afraid.

Happy cat wearing knitted project.
MacKenzie and I have been working on my Sturgill sweater while watching the weather reports, and it is looking good!
Author wearing sweater in progress.
See. Looking good! I’ve taken the body off the needles and am knitting the sleeves right now because… yarn chicken worries. Once the sleeves are done I can blend the remaining yarn artfully to get the length I want.
Moon shining through a tree.
Tonight all is still calm and the storm is still just a dream waiting to happen…

I’m knitting like crazy on the sweater this evening and have several shows queued up for me on the DVR. I’m thinking that I’m in for a few days of prime knitting weather.

Yippee!

You all be safe out there!

PS: Did you wonder what I had to do with the shovel to get it ready for the snowstorm? Why, bring it inside, of course, so it would be warm when I spray it with Pam later for no-stick snow shoveling. We knitters are canny about spring snow storms…

Sturgill Learning Curve

I launched into Sturgill with supreme self-confidence. I had just finished off some stunningly challenging mitts for my niece and felt like there wasn’t a knitting project anywhere that would be beyond me. I’m rocking, right?! Let me just print out this bad boy, cast on and whip it out…

Sturgill pattern by Caitlin Hunter and the author's work in progress.
There isn’t a sweater designed by Caitlin Hunter that I don’t want to knit. I was hooked as soon as I saw this pattern hit Ravelry. I went stash shopping that night and couldn’t wait to get started. As you can see, I have been making progress, but I’ve been learning new tricks along the way…

Do you hear the sound of screeching brakes in the background? Yep. Hubris will only get you so far. There have been problems. I have had to rethink some things, learn some new skills, and just embrace the adventure. Here are the highlights:

Color Choices

Yarn for sweater.
I selected these yarns the night that I printed the pattern. I thought that the purple would be great as the color pop (turquoise color in the original) in the sweater. I cast on and started knitting with the grey, and then wound the other colors when I got to the colorwork chart. Oh. Once I had the yarn wound I realized that this purple made the dusky pink (my favorite!) look dull. Really dull. Ugh. Time to hit the yarn stash again…
Final yarn chosen for the sweater.
I found this muted purple to use instead. The new purple is fingering (the other yarns are DK) so I will need to knit it doubled. That should work, right? The pink brightened right up with the new purple and looks much better. Yay! I cast on with these yarns.

Yarn Handling

I’m pretty good at knitting colorwork these days. I carry the dominant color in my left hand and the other color in my right; I catch the strands every other stitch so there are few floats. What I didn’t anticipate because I didn’t look closely at the pattern in my rush of casting on joy is that there are three colors being used at a time in parts of this color chart. Oops! After some struggling, inappropriate language, and hair pulling, I worked out a routine to handle all three colors by parking one on the left to be used only by my left hand (grey yarn), one on the right to be used only by my right hand (purple yarn) and the pink was parked in the middle. As I worked through the chart the pink switched hands as required by the work, I caught floats when I could, and there was no tangling of the yarn.  Slow going, but the final fabric looks pretty good, and you can’t see that inappropriate language at all. 🙂

Bobbles

There were bobbles on my niece’s mitts, which required a lot of turning back and forth while I worked each one. Not a big deal, because the mitt was a small item. This sweater has lots of 3-stitch bobbles, and I didn’t want to turn the work back and forth for every single one. The bobbles involve only 3 stitches. Obviously a great opportunity to knit backwards…

After some messing around I figured out how to do it. I’ve started the bobble here and am backwards knitting the three bobble-stitches from the right needle back onto the left. To do this you insert the left needle into the back of the stitch you are working…
Knitting backwards
Wrap the yarn around the left needle from front to back…
Knitting backwards
Pull the wrapped yarn through the stitch…
Knitting backwards
Pull the finished stich off the right needle to the left one. I just knitted this stitch backwards! 
Finished bobble
By knitting stitches backwards instead of turning the work and purling them, I found that it was much easier (and faster) to get the bobbles done. Win and a new skill acquired!

There’s more struggle ahead of me. I’m worried about running out of the grey yarn and there was no more at the LYS so I bought two skeins of fingering to use knitted double. That’s DK, right? The colors look to be a good match, but I’m still a little anxious. I hated to add two skeins to the stash, but I was dying with yarn chicken anxiety. I’m getting away with doubled yarn with the purple, but if I pull that trick with the sleeves will they look funny? Lots to worry about.

MacKenzie helping with the knitting.
I’m also dealing with the usual cat assistance while I knit. So cute. So purrsistent. So annoying when struggling with three colors or bobbles.
Knitted Progress.
But I’m making good progress on the sweater anyway and I’m really happy with the colors. I can’t wait to get this finished and blocked!!

I’m still trying to clean as much yarn as I can out of the stash this year. So far I’ve used up 13 skeins, and with the sweater I should clear several more even without counting the two skeins I added on as insurance. This sweater is mostly out of the stash, and even though it is keeping me on my toes, I am so happy with how it is knitting up!

Here are my Sturgill project notes on Ravelry.