Whipping your WIPs into shape

I’ll admit that I’ve never been a truly monogamous knitter. But, since moving, rearranging my stash and dedicating a box just to WIPs (I’m an optimist, so I don’t like referring to them as UFOs) I’ve realized that I have more than a couple. These were projects I plunged into headfirst and then another shiny pattern caught my eye, or I got to a point where the project became a little more complex. So, in an effort to get them back on track and the box under control — my stash has already migrated into another bin and I don’t want my WIPs to — I’ve decided to create a little strategy that I hope will also help you.

Getting realistic

First, I got realistic about what I was going to finish. That Rock Island I started a few years ago in Spirit Trail lace, only getting through seven repeats of the beginning edging? Frogged, getting a much-loved project bag back in return. I know that mostly lacy shawls, especially in dark, laceweight yarn, are just not for me. I wasn’t far enough in that frogging was painful, and I figured if I wasn’t getting joy from the project right from the beginning, it wasn’t worth continuing. Maybe one day I’ll knit it, but not now.

Something mindless

Then, I found a project that was still in the mindless garter stage — my Marrakesh shawl pictured above — and designated it as a subway/knit night project. Until I get to the lace egding, it is forbidden to be a knit-at-home project. I’m limiting those to my latest sweater, Mary Annarella’s You Wear It Well, which is up to the sleeves and no longer very portable, and Anne Hanson’s Shared Rib cabled infinity scarf. Both make for good TV knitting, ensuring I’ll finish them soon-ish.

Prioritize

I’ve decided to prioritize finishing one languishing WIP before casting on another project. When I finish Marrakesh, my plan is to cast on a 3 Color Cashmere Cowl with my Vintage No. 1 from Middle Brook Fiberworks.

Create deadlines

I’m also creating general deadlines — ideally, finishing one WIP every month or two months, depending how far along I am. I plan to actually write these deadlines down in a fancy journal, so I can hold myself to them and not keep changing them in my head.

Ideally, I will end up in a place where I have a good mix of mindless, complicated and/or non-portable projects so that there’s an ideal WIP for every activity. Because we all know that knitting — and FOs — make everything better.

Cowl-a-palooza 2, Electric Boogaloo

2

Gather DDW

When I first saw Duck Duck Wool‘s Boys and Berries colorway, I knew I had to have it. The opportunity came at the Rhinebeck Trunk Show. There wasn’t a whole lot left when I finally got to visit Sandra’s table, which had been mobbed. And there it was: the shiny pink-purple that most people who know me would call a Lisa Color.

I would have taken a bunch of skeins, but there was only one lone skein of 50/50 DK. In deciding what to make with it, I found a couple of people had made Tin Can Knits’ Gather Cowl. I had the pattern since I made the hat for my nephew.

I cast on while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and finished late last night. It still needs a quick block, otherwise I would have it on right now. It is the color of my dreams, and now I have to decide on a way to get, and use, more of it.

Aphasia 2

The other project that’s ready to be blogged about is the Aphasia I finally blocked this week in anticipation of finally giving it to its recipient. I knit this scarf for Carmen, who lived with my family in 1998 as an Italian exchange student. She got married in May and my parents were supposed to go to the Roaring ’20s-themed wedding, but my mom was having heel pain and they decided to reschedule for September. My husband and I were all set to go with them, but then he ended up having back pain that turned out to need surgery. Luckily, Carmen and her new husband decided to take their belated honeymoon in the U.S., and just flew in last night!

I have to thank Melissa Wehrle, aka Neoknits, for handing off her leftover Straw Sea Silk after I was running out perilously close to the end. I ended up meeting her in Midtown to get it when I thought I’d be flying out to Italy that next week. I finished it anyway, and it’s been sitting in the To Block pile.

Though it probably won’t be quite warm enough for our winter, I’m definitely glad to get to give it to her in person.

What to make with gradient yarn sets

5

Kettle_Yarn_Co_Antiprism_ALL

You know you’re a knitter when you hear the word “ombre” and don’t automatically think hair. Indie dyers, including a few here on Indie Untangled, have been producing some incredible gradient sets. They rarely fail to make me swoon, but I always feel like I need some guidance to figure out what to knit with them.

Fortunately, a couple of dyers have recently come out with kits to help provide inspiration. The photo above is of a new shawl pattern by designer Renee Callahan. Antiprism, with its unique gradient triangles, is available exclusively as part of a kit with an ombre set of BFL Twist yarns from Kettle Yarn Co.

Stephanie of Dirty Water DyeWorks recently started selling a kit for Carina Spencer’s new Brush Creek Shawl. There are three different ombre color combos — purple, blue and green — on Mavis, a superwash Merino/silk blend.

Krista at Pigeonroof Studios sells popular mini-skein sock yarn gradient sets, and she also designed a free Gradient Mitts pattern to go with them.

Then, there are patterns that you wouldn’t necessarily consider for a gradient kit.

Cassy featured this gradient top on her blog, Knit the Hell Out.

Cassy featured this gradient top on her blog, Knit the Hell Out.

When I saw Cassy/knitthehellout’s Whispers using a Pebble Sock gradient kit from Black Trillium Fibres, I was immediately smitten. I’m a big fan of Veera Välimäki’s designs, and I loved Cassy’s take on this simple top.

I also can’t wait to see my friend Mollie/molliebatmit’s ObLaDi with the Fiber Optics Yarns Paintbox Gradient that she picked up at Rhinebeck last year. She inspired me to buy one of the sets, which I am likely turning into a gradient striped shell, though now I might have to reconsider…

Here are several other pattern possibilities, including a bunch of my favorite FOs on Ravelry. Some of the patterns are meant for gradient yarns, while others are designs that Ravelers decided to give an ombre twist:

Sweaters

Jenn/jfnyland’s Paper Birch with Cephalopod Yarns Beastie (I love Laura Aylor’s designs, especially this cowl-neck sweater, and the gradient really works.)

Kate/katepricey’s Le Facteur in ColorShift Earth and Sky Design Set

Shawls

Nikki/KnittyFish's Daybreak in ColorShift Earth and Sky Design Set

Nikki/KnittyFish’s Daybreak in ColorShift Earth and Sky Design Set

Paula/PrairiePiper’s Magic Cake Ruffle Shawl with Fiber Optics Yarns Kashmir (Paula designed the pattern and also runs the Knitting Pipeline podcast.)

Janet/Daisieknit’s Now in a minute with The Unique Sheep Luxe

Nicole/bioartist’s Aranami Shawl in Canon Hand Dyes Charles Sock Yarn Note: This pattern might require more yardage than some gradient kits provide.

Also, Kara/KaraMcKinley’s Aranami Shawl in Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering

Cowls

Fiar by Irishgirlieknits modeled by LizArrow

Fiar by Irishgirlieknits modeled by LizArrow

Melanie/PinkLemon’s Song of the Sea with SpaceCadet Creations Ester (This is a great pattern — I’ve made two of them already — and using a gradient is such a brilliant idea!)

Jean/jerdlngr’s September Circle With Miss Babs Yummy Toes — Sock

Spectral by Debbi Stone

Hats

Chrystee/playinglife spiced up Barley by tincanknits with her own Play at Life Fiber Arts Jest Aran

Chrystee/playinglife spiced up Barley by tincanknits with her own Play at Life Fiber Arts Jest Aran

Jean/sadie21jean’s Fade in a Black Trillium Fibres Pebble Sock gradient kit (also check out her matching Gradiente Scarf)

Terri/holity’s Wurm in Knitcircus Cabaret

Varia by Alexandra Tinsley

Please comment with your gradient pattern suggestions and projects, and don’t forget to check out the Pinterest board for this post.

The search for the perfect navy

Yelena Navy main

In order to get some different perspectives on hand-dyed yarn, I will periodically run posts by other knitters. Yelena Malcolm Dasher, AKA ymalcolm on Ravelry, is incredibly talented and lightning fast, and she can probably finish more sweaters in a year than I could hope to complete in my lifetime. She’s also one of the coolest people I know. I guarantee you will become a fan of her writing as well as her knitting. —Lisa

Navy. It seems like such a simple thing, really. Pea coats, pencil skirts, blazers — they all come in navy. So why is it so hard to find that perfect navy in a hand-dyed yarn? As someone who has never tried her hand at dyeing, I can only conjecture based on the almost-navies I’ve encountered. The number one problem seems to be a tendency toward purple. I once saw a gorgeous version of Madelinetosh‘s Clematis colorway which was, I thought, the navy I had been searching for. Several purchases across different bases led me to conclude that either that one photograph didn’t represent the color well on my monitor or that single skein was an aberration. Clematis clearly leans purple. I tried other Tosh colors including Ink and Thunderstorm without getting the navy my mind envisioned. So the hunt began.

I was looking for deepest, darkest navy. The navy that looks nearly black in your closet until you hold it next to actual black. This is, apparently, a tall order. Quince & Co.‘s Pea Coat colorway, while not hand dyed, was the closest I could find for a while (and it became a zip-up cardigan for my dad) until I stayed up far too late on a Thursday night and managed to snag some Wollmeise DK in Admiral. When the package arrived, I was elated. This was a good, true, dark navy. Could it be a little darker? Yes. But compared with my other attempts, this was the closest. I started to knit it into a Breton-style striped sweater (which was subsequently frogged because it didn’t fit right and I’m still waiting to try again — perhaps as soon as I finish writing this).

Enter Ridgely of Astral Bath Yarns. She had heard my calls in the wild, my supplications to the hand-dye gods for Ultimate Navy. I like to think that she got out her alchemist’s robe and double-double-toiled-and-troubled over her pot just for me, but that’s likely just my narcissism talking. Whatever her motivation, when I saw the first photos of Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, I did the knitter’s happy dance. When I snagged four skeins of Spectra and they arrived, the dance became more frenzied. Not a hint of purple, these. Just perfect, black-blue navy. In a bizarre twist of fate, however, I traded those skeins for four skeins in the heavier Spectra DK so I could make Mary Annarella’s Girl on Fire sweater. This lapse in my hoarding skills (why on earth wouldn’t I have kept both lots?) turned out to be more of a karmic offering: my sweater turned out perfectly, exactly as I wanted, and I was able to share the wealth that is RS&L with a fellow knitter.

Meanwhile, because one navy sweater is never enough, a new-to-me dyer popped up on my radar via the lovely folks at Happy Knits. Melanie, of Black Trillium Fibre Studio, seemed to have also decoded the perfect navy. I impulse bought six skeins of her Pebble Worsted in Moon Shadow and I’m glad I did. When they arrived, I discovered that perfect navy can happen in more than one way. These skeins were ever so slightly more tonal than the Astral Bath skeins, but they still achieved the look I wanted. Finding the perfect project for them, however, took a little more doing. Conventional wisdom says that dark colors don’t show off cables well. Yet I wanted a navy cabled sweater. When the Interweave Knits Winter 2014 issue came out, I decided I had found it in Amy Herzog’s Telluride Aran. Throwing caution to the wind, I cast on. And something amazing happened. Melanie’s base was so cable friendly that it didn’t matter that the color was the darkest non-black she dyes. The cables just sang in the yarn. With each passing row I became more smitten with the yarn and the color.

Yelena Navy 2

So now I have two perfect navy sweaters and, I hope, one eventually perfect Breton-style sweater, each using a different dyer’s navy. You would think a girl could be sated by this. But no, I’m constantly on the hunt for the next Ultimate Navy. After all, I still don’t have a cardigan!

Knitting indie: Ready for spring (and for winter Down Under)

1

TanisFrenchCanCan

Even though it was a bit windy in New York over the weekend, the weather could not have been more perfect for the debut of my latest FO. Those of you who subscribe to the newsletter will be happy to know that my French Cancan shawl was finished and dry in time to wear to Jess and Kip’s wedding brunch with my springy ModCloth dress (see blurry selfie here). I ended up pulling an “all-knitter” to complete the knitted on edging (and can I just say that Comedy Central has some really questionable commercials on in the middle of the night?).

The yarn, Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK in Grapefruit, was the perfect spring color. I fell in love with it last summer, when my parents were heading up to Canada on vacation. They brought home a bunch of skeins of Tanis from a yarn store in Nova Scotia, including two skeins of Grapefruit. TFA is a husband and wife team based out of a small home studio in Montreal, so using the yarn with the pattern by French designer Mademoiselle C was fitting.

While knitted on edgings look elegant, they are not the best idea when you have a deadline — even a self-imposed one. I had plenty of yardage, so luckily I didn’t have to sweat it out at the very end playing Yarn Chicken. I enjoyed seeing the cabled French braid border slowly emerge and the shawl blocked out beautifully into a crescent, with very little pinning necessary. I don’t think I would have had the energy left for more precise blocking, anyway! I’ve never knit a DK-weight shawl before, but it was perfect for weather in the 60s. I almost don’t want it to get warmer. Almost.

photo-125

In March, I was also getting ready for winter in Australia. My brother, sister-in-law and two nephews, including one-month-old Koby, live just outside of Melbourne, so knitting for the new baby also meant preparing three-year-old Liam for the impending cold. And while they generally don’t have to deal with Polar Vortex-type conditions, a nice DK-weight hat is a good thing to have with the area’s infamous changeable weather.

I had long been meaning to try out Berry Colorful Yarnings, one of the first dyers on Indie Untangled, and so I asked Michelle to dye up some superwash DK in one of her brightest blues. The MadTosh Mourning Dove I used for last year’s hat brought out the icy blue of Liam’s eyes perfectly, and Michelle’s Bright Blue also helps them pop in a different way. While Koby has some time to grow into the cardigan I knit him with yarn from my Tanis stash, Liam has rarely taken off his Gather hat. I’m sure the incredibly soft yarn Michelle dyed up has something to do with it. I think he has a future as the next Indie Untangled spokeskid.