After so much time away, which I spent very productively, I have so much to say that it might be too much for one blog post. I'll give it a shot and then we'll have a bonus post this week if I have more to say.
With no further ado, let us begin. First up is one you haven't seen before.
In an attempt not to get caught at Christmas with a half-finished shawl, I started this one way early. I needn't have worried - it was a surprisingly fast knit. The end result is a little shallow, I suppose, so that might be why it went more quickly than I expected. Right about when the rows start to get really tedius, you're done. As a result this one was done in August and I am horrible at keeping gifts secret, so it was a real effort not to even hint at this one. I couldn't even talk about it on Ravelry or put up a project page, as the recipient might have stumbled upon it.
This is one of those projects where I really had a specific effect in mind. I wanted an aspen-themed shawl, I wanted it to really look like aspen, and I wanted it to be the color of aspens in the fall, and I had very specific ideas about what that meant. I chose the Aspen Grove shawl (as opposed to the many, many other lovely aspen-themed shawls out there) because to me the stitch motif actually looks like a real aspen leaf. Moreso on the model than on my version, to be honest, but I think that has to do with the yarn I used. It's a very tightly spun silk from No Two Snowflakes, in a OOAK colorway called Opportunity Knocks. It's perfect for the shawl but I think because the stitch definition is so incredibly crisp, the shape of the leaf is a little less rounded than I would have preferred (might also have to do with my guage), but it's still very close. I paid close attention when I blocked to make sure I got them as rounded as possible.
I actually spent a lot of time thinking about whether I could possibly get a gradient effect in the shawl so that the trunks would be more white. I thought about using 3 colors and holding two strands together throughout, changing from two yellow strands to one yellow and white strand and then one white strand - but in the end, I just went with this yarn, which is much more variegated than you can see in the pictures. Then I thought about beading the tree trunks with white pearl seed beads, but after examining the chart I decided this would be too difficult and end up making the shawl too heavy.
(I'm not sure but I think this photograph is actually of the wrong side. You can see the pearl bumps in the leaves. Oops.)
The next thing I have to show is this:
That was my Christmas present from the SO - enough KnitPicks blocking mats to cover a 6x6 surface. Why on earth would anyone need so many blocking mats?
So that I could finally do this:
Though as you can see, my finished project fell far short of the 6' diameter the pattern instructed. Not surprising, I used the recommended needle size, and I'm a tight knitter by nature. Photographing white on grey turned out to be a little challenging, but I did my best.
Once my Christmas knitting was done my hands were not idle. I was determined to finish some projects before I got home, projects that I knew would take forever to finish if I just had an hour or two every night to work on them. First up was Bluebird with its 70 million repeats (not really, it was only 38, but it felt like a lot). Normally I avoid patterns with repeating motifs for this reason, I get bored very quickly and the project just drags out as I slog through the middle sections. So, I put my vacation time to good use and cranked on this as hard and fast as I could to get through it. Then I relaxed a bit as I knit through the other end. I was hoping to finish this by midnight on New Years, but I didn't quite make it. I was distracted by guests and board games, which are all integral NYE traditions for us, so though I had it in my lap the whole time, I did lose a lot of knitting time. By 1 a.m., I had made it to the last row. I chose not to do the bind off just then, though, since I didn't want to screw it up due to tiredness. This turned out to be a good decision as I nearly screwed it up in the afternoon.
Yesterday I rearranged my blocking mats and pinned it out.
I should probably be ashamed of how happy it makes me that I can now block without leaving the room with the TV.
The beads were so pretty that I wished I could have used more, but I couldn't figure out a logical placement that didn't use way too many more than I wanted to deal with.
I still have one loose end that's not quite tied up yet.
Once I had the middle section of Bluebird done, this monstor became my vacation knitting. After such a long break, it didn't feel like it was going nearly as slow as it had when I stopped, so that's good - although an eye on the clock shows that it is not, in fact, going any faster. Then, at the airport while working on the last repeat of the Edge chart, I started to worry that I was going to run out of yarn. You can see that ball doesn't have much left, and if you squeeze it it becomes truly frightening how little is left. I stopped, afraid I was going to run out and end up having to frog a whole repeat of Edge. I didn't have a scale with me (I was, in fact, sitting at the airport when I reached this conclusion) so I decided it was better to wait until I could weigh it. I did have a little winding incident when I wound this yarn and I knew I had a little miniskein left over from that, but I was sure it was going to be too tiny to matter.
On New Years Day, after I finished Bluebird, I picked Phoenix back up again and got out the scale. The yarn I had left weighed about 13 grams, and I was fretting myself to pieces. I went and got the little mini skein. When I took it out of the ziplock it was in, it was surprisingly fat. I went straight back to the scale.
Yes, I thought, now we're in business. Now instead of 'definitely not gonna make it' I was back up to 'might possibly, if I'm very lucky, make it.'
As of yesterday I still hadn't totally used up the original ball, and I'm into the ending rows now. There are 10 ending rows and I'm running at roughly a gram a row, or slightly less. I don't think these last rows get any bigger, so I think, maybe, I'm gonna be okay. I'm going to get another 2 rows out of the original ball, I think, which will leave 6 rows of the ending rows for that little 9 gram miniskein. That leaves me 3 grams for the bind off, which...will be really tight, honestly. I mean, if you figure that a normal row would take 1 gram, then I would like to think the bind off will take no more than twice the normal amount of yarn. But I'm not sure. And, to be honest, I'm using more like .8 grams per row, so maybe I will have a little leeway. I could leave out two rows of the ending chart and probably be no worse for it, but...I don't know. We'll see. I normally don't mind frogging when I need to, but I'm not sure I could handle frogging that many stitches if I get to the end and don't have enough. Stay tuned, people, this one will be a nail-biter. I was honestly hoping to finish yesterday, but I left my tube of beads at the SO's place at the NYE party so I had to stop once the ones I had in the bag ran out. At 40 minutes a row this is still going to take a while to complete, but if I don't have it done by this weekend I will cry.
Since I was stuck, I did what any knitter would do - I started a new project. I was hoping to cast on Fiori di Sole, but it turns out that all my size 4 needles are in use. I'm honestly not sure how this is possible, I have 3 or 4 sets and I can only account for two. There is one set of wood tips in my needle binder, but I have such a preference for the metal ones that I thought I might as well just wait until Phoenix is done and I can reclaim those needles.
Instead I started this.
The Limestone One-Skein shawl in delicious fingering cashmere from Zen Yarn Garden, in a color that reminds me of rasberry sherbert. So light, so soft, so gorgeous. My new love. But I'm sticking to my guns on finishing Phoenix. I'm so close. That will be my first priority until it's over.
I plan to cast on for Fiori, and that will leave me with one really intensive, demanding project (Sevillano), one more relaxed lace project (Fiori) and one pretty easy fingering lace project (Limestone). I consider this an acceptable status for WIPs.
I also finished (and gifted) the Esplanade hat I was working on, so that's off the needles, leaving me with just shawls, a couple of pairs of socks, and the one sweater (Simone from French Girl Knits) as active WIPS. We do not speak of the non-active WIPS.
The rest of what I had to say involves Christmas loot and this is already a pretty picture-heavy post, so I think we'll save that for a bonus post.