Sunday, February 24, 2013

Needle review

Yesterday I switched from dpn's to two circulars on the Mandala II shawl, and after a while I thought that maybe it was time that I talked a bit about all the different needles I've tried out through the five years I've been knitting. I should tell you though that I definitely prefer to knit with wooden needles, so that's what I'll mostly talk about.

When I started out knitting, I just bought the cheapest needles that I found in my LYS, which was mostly Pony plastic or metal needles. I started out with ordinary jumper needles, but pretty soon I started making patterns that needed circulars. After a while I had a huge selection of Pony plastic circular needles, and even some in the same sizes as I often forgot which sizes I already owned. I never thought about whether I liked the needles or not, as I had nothing to compare to.

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Then in 2009 I found Ravelry, and the immense amount of information available there. I read about the KnitPicks needles, and pretty soon decided to try them out. I actually started by buying a whole set of interchangeable Harmony wood needles, with sizes from 3.5 mm up to about 8 mm or so I think. I think I only had to hold them for a few seconds before I knew I was in love. And I have never gone back to plastic or metal needles since then!

Since my first contact with the Harmony's, I've tried a few other brands as well. I thought I would just talk a little bit about the different ones, one by one. I'll start with the circulars.

I still really like the Harmony needles, they are amazingly sharp and feel great to handle. Some of the sizes I've tried seem to have difficult joins, and the yarn can snag sometimes. I've also broken a few needles, but I think I've only had one or so come loose at the actual joint. The rest I've sat on or something similar, so that's no reflection on the quality of the needles. The only thing that I'm still not overly fond of is the cables, which are the same on both the fixed circulars and the interchangeables. They are a bit stiff, and coil up very easily. Other than that I still love the KnitPicks brand, and they are very cheap compared to a lot of other needle brands. I think they are still my favourites.

I have also tried the KnitPicks Zephyr's, which are acrylic needles, but I'm not completely won over. They are completely see-through, and I find that to be a bit of a hassle. I also find them too grippy, so I very rarely use them. I have the whole set of these as well, but I like them well enough that I don't want to get rid of them.

Picture from Here

I also just bought a single size of KnitPicks Sunstruck needles, which are their new, blonde wooden needles. I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, but they feel almost exactly like the Harmony's so I think I'll like them just fine.

Picture from Here

When I made my first order from Eat.Sleep.Knit I got two sizes of Knitter's Pride Cubics needles to try out. These fit on the same cables as the KnitPicks ones, which was a nice feature for me as I already have a plethora of cables. The needles are square, which is supposed to be kinder to your hands than the round ones, but I have to admit I didn't feel any big difference. I didn't really enjoy them though, as the yarn was a bit harder to move from the cable join onto the square parts, and I actually managed to break two of the needles while knitting with them. These actually just broke in my hands, so I guess I was knitting very tightly with them. I didn't bother to get it replaced though, as I didn't like them anyway.

I think it might have been about a year ago that I discovered ChiaoGoo needles. I buy mine from Grandma's Knit and Crochet on Etsy, and their service and shipping is superb. They also reward their customers with a lot of coupon codes, which is a nice feature. I have some fixed ChiaoGoo circulars, and I also got their new interchangeables set when it came out. I LOVE the fixed circulars, the needles are smooth and slick and the cable is fantastic. The needles aren't as sharp as the KnitPicks ones, and if I could I would make a needle that had the KnitPicks tips and the ChiaoGoo cables. However, the cables in the interchangeable set aren't the same as on the fixed needles, and not as good. The cables on the fixed needles aren't swivelling, but they are on the interchangeable needles, but that feature doesn't make up for the fact that the interchangeable cables have a lot more memory and curl up a bit. I think they are similar in quality as the KnitPicks interchangeable. I think that the cables for the ChiaoGoo Red Lace interchangeable set (which is metal) is different, and I think I'll order some of those to try out too.

When I had found the ChiaoGoo needles I thought I had found a new favourite, but with the interchangeables I find that the cable joints can be very un-smooth. As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm using two circulars right now on the lace shawl, and it is almost impossible to get the last stitches of the row past the joint! I'm going to switch it for either a fixed ChiaoGoo or KnitPicks, because right now it's almost impossible to work on. So I think that the KnitPicks are still my favourites.

Finally, I have two circular needles in my stash that I haven't tried out yet. A while ago when I placed an order with Grandma's Knit and Crochet, they managed to mix two orders up, so I got someone else's order. It contained two 4 mm Red Lace fixed circulars from ChiaoGoo, and I got to keep them. As they are metal, I haven't felt like even trying them out. I would like to try the cables though, so maybe I will try them out and then give them away here on the blog.

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The second brand that I haven't tried out yet is an Addi interchangeable Bamboo Click needle, that I got from Garnkorgen just to try out. The bamboo feels very nice, but the needles are incredibly blunt! The sharpness of the KnitPicks needles is the feature that I love the most, so I think the Addi's will stay unused. Maybe I'll try them on something small, and then give them away here too :)

Picture from Here

Ok, let's talk about DPN's then. Since I started knitting with the KnitPicks Harmony dpn's, I've very rarely used anything else. They are still my favourites, and as I make all of my socks with dpn's I use them a lot. I've tried magic loop and knitting with two circulars, but I always prefer dpn's. The Harmony needles are very smooth, they don't bend like bamboo needles tend to do, and they are incredibly sharp. I have broken several in the 2 mm size, but that is almost to be expected with the smallest size, as they are made of wood. I have nothing bad to say about these!

A couple of years ago I bought a set of Marks & Kattens Ecological wooden needles at a fair (I think it was the sewing festival), just to try out. They are made from birch wood, and they are not waxed like the KnitPicks ones. They are pretty grippy, and I don't really enjoy them. I've used them as flight needles some times (you know, cheap needles that doesn't matter if you have to throw away if you can't bring them on a plane), and that is mostly why I keep them.

Picture from Here

I also have a set of Clover bamboo needles, that I also bought as flight needles. They are smooth but very blunt, and I mostly use them when I have no alternative. Like right now, actually. When I was starting the sleeves on the Julissa sweater my KnitPicks 3 mm needles were busy in the Mandala shawl, so I picked these up. I don't really enjoy them, but I don't hate them either. They are good to have around as flight needles too. I don't want to risk my KnitPicks dpn's when I fly, if I should have to leave them behind.

Picture from Here

Finally, I splurged a bit about a year ago, and got a set of Blackthorn Carbon Fibre dpn's. These are made with the same material as stealth planes, and incredibly light weight. They are supposed to be unbreakable, and I haven't tried to bend them but I think they are incredibly durable. They are pretty sharp, almost as sharp as the Harmony's, and they are warm to knit with. My only objection to them is the sound they make when they slide against each other. It kind of reminds me of the sound of chalk against a blackboard, even though it isn't as bad as that. It's a kind of scratching sound, and it bugs me a little bit. I still use them quite often, I even got a second set a while ago, but I don't think I'll get any more. I just prefer wood!

Ok, that was a pretty hefty post! All that to tell you that I still prefer KnitPicks! A lot of knitters seem to prefer metal needles, but I just don't like the feel of them in my hands. The metal is cold, and it gets sweaty if I get too warm, plus I don't like the loud clicking sound they make. Wood feels so much more natural to me, and as the Harmony's are lacquered they are almost as smooth as metal needles.

I hope I'll get back to you next week with a regular post, and hopefully a finished sweater. I'm almost done with the first sleeve, so keep your fingers crossed!

/ Jenny

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Club yarn and a HO

I thought I'd start with my HO (that's a Half-finished Object, for those of you who didn't know). Yesterday I finished the afterthought heel on the Flecktone socks I'm making in the self-striping Four Seasons Gründl yarn.

The sock is very pretty, and I really love the stripes and the muted colour changes, but I'm not a huge fan of the yarn. It's a little bit fuzzy, especially for an ordinary superwash wool/nylon sock yarn. And it's a little bit scratchy. I just hope it will improve with some wash and wear. I'll use them even if they don't soften up very much, as I'm not too sensitive about my feet, but I won't buy the yarn again. The heel and overall fit of the sock is much better with this one, compared to the Vanilla Bean socks I finished recently, so I think I've learned how long I have to knit from the heel before I start the toe decreases. I am contemplating going back and lengthening the Vanilla Bean socks, but I don't know if I can be bothered since it's a bit of a hassle to find the right place in the yarn again.

I also got some yarn in the mail yesterday, the February shipment in the 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon sock club from The Knitting Goddess.

The colourway is called Fly the Flag, and the pattern that goes with it is called Eponine and is from the Les Miserables movie. I really like both the yarn and the pattern, but I'm not sure I'll get around to making them very soon. I think the yarn will go in the stash for a while, as I have s lot of stuff planned for March. The yarn is The Knitting Goddess 4 ply Merino Nylon sock, by the way.

Last week I also cast on for the Mandala II shawl, but I've made very little progress.

It's made with Madelinetosh lace yarn, in the colourway Rose, and it's looking very good so far. I've finished the first chart, and I think I'll have to switch to a circular needle soon. It feels good to have some lace on the needles again! I'm planning on knitting a bit on it this weekend too.

Otherwise I've mostly been knitting on the Julissa sweater this week, and I've made about half of the first sleeve:

I still really enjoy working with the Wollmeise DK yarn, and it smells sooo good! It's a huge change from working with the Madelinetosh Pashmina, which had a slight smell of vinegar. I was actually wondering why I had a craving for salt & vinegar chips every time I was knitting with the yarn! I really want to finish the Julissa soon, so I get to wear it a bit before it gets too warm. Not that that seems very likely though, we still haven't had any days without negative temperatures here. Still in the midst of winter! Hopefully March will be warmer.

I haven't touched the Gördes socks in a week or so, but maybe I can work a little bit on them this weekend too. I also have plans this weekend to make some of the cookies from the Cookie A sock club that I got a while ago. I'm not a baker at all, in all honesty I'm not a kitchen person (Thomas does all the cooking in this house), but as I got these recipes I'm actually feeling a bit motivated.

Oh: Chili Gredelin has decided to finally close her shop for good (there hasn't been an update in ages, so I'm not surprised, although it is sad), so today she started her clearance sale. She has some lovely yarn, and I of course managed to snag some skeins. They'll be here next week, so I'll tell you more about them then.

Finally, I also found a new to me Swedish yarn dyer that I had to try out! Go check out Friday Studios, she has lots of gorgeous self-striping yarns! One of them is on it's way to me too...

/ Jenny

Sunday, February 17, 2013

TWO more FO's for you!

Even though I went back to work on Thursday, I have managed to knit a lot during the evenings. And this weekend has mostly been spent on the couch, knitting and playing games with Thomas. So I've actually managed to finish two more projects! On Wednesday evening I finished the Sofie's Slouch that I made for my mother. She had asked if I could make her a blue slouchy hat, and I had some KnitPicks Stroll yarn left in my stash in the colourway Saphire Heather that fit perfectly. The pattern called for DK, so I just held the yarn doubled and got gauge. Perfect!

I'm pretty pleased with the hat, and my mother will get it next week so I hope she'll like it too. I used up almost all of the yarn I had left too, and I feel so pleased when I get to move yarn on Ravlery from the "stash" to the "all used up" tab! Although now I have to find some more blue sock yarn to use for a pair of Tardis socks that I want to knit eventually...

Yesterday I was knitting mostly on my Julissa sweater that I'm making with Wollmeise DK yarn. This yarn is really nice to work with! I made my Evenstar shawl a year or so ago with Wollmeise Lace, and even though the finished shawl is gorgeous and really soft, I found that yarn a bit stiff to work with. Not the DK! This yarn is super soft right from the start, and the stitch definition is amazing!

I've just begun the hip increases, after finishing the waist, so hopefully I can get the body done tonight or tomorrow. I really love this sweater, and I can't wait to wear it. The pattern is really clear and precise, even though you do lots of stuff at the same time, but the instructions are good and the charts are perfect. I can definitely see myself making more of Vanessas patterns in the future.

In the middle of the day yesterday I also took a break from the sweater and worked some on the Vanilla Bean socks. They went so fast that I actually finished them! 

These were made with KnitPicks Felici yarn, in the Time Traveler colourway, and I really like them. I may have to rip the toes out though and make one more stripe before the decreases, because the foot parts are a bit too small. I wore them for a while yesterday, and I found that the heel tended to end up a bit below my foot... I'm not sure if I'll bother though, as they are comfortable anyway. I think this is just because I had never made an afterthought heel before, and I didn't know how long I should continue knitting before starting the toe.

As I finished those socks, I knew I needed to start a new pair that I can use as my work knitting. The Gördes socks that I cast on the other day (and that I haven't touched since) are a bit too complicated to knit on during my breaks, I need something more mindless for that. I chose the Flecktone mitts as my starting point, only I'm turning them into socks instead. That shouldn't be too difficult, right? I love the stitch pattern! I pulled out one of my newer yarns from the stash, the Four Seasons Gründl Hot Socks Nil yarn that I got when my mom was visiting, so I can use them for my March socks in the Stockinette Zombies Striped Socks KAL.

So far I like the look of them, but I'm not sure that I'm enjoying the yarn very much. It is pretty scratchy, even for a workhorse sock yarn. But the colours are awesome, I love the kind of tonal striping, and I think they might soften with some wash and wear. I'll definitely finish them! The pattern is pretty mindless, so they'll be perfect for work.

Ok, so now I have three projects going: One sweater and two pairs of socks. I think I might actually cast on some lace today though, as I really feel like lace knitting! I already have some MadelineTosh lace yarn wound, and I think I'll start the Mandala II shawl. I don't have very much planned for today, other that grocery shopping, so I think I'll get around to it.

So how did you guys spend Valentine's Day? As Thomas had his birthday on Sunday, we have never really celebrated Valentine's, but this year we at least spent the evening together. Thomas' museum hosts something called Nerd Cafés about once a month, where someone who has a passion for a specific topic comes and talks about that for an hour, while the audience gets to buy coffee and cakes. This month the Nerd was a Stephen King afficionado, so I really wanted to listen. As you might know, I'm a bit obsessed by Stephen King myself. I have read all of his books, I even have a Dark Tower tattoo, and I adore his books. So it was a really nice speech, and I got to talk a bit with the speaker afterwards too. His name is Hans-Åke Lilja, and he runs the website Lilja's Library which is one of the biggest Stephen King fan-sites in the world. He's even got to meet mr King himself once, and I have to admit I'm pretty jealous about that. If you do like mr King, I really recommend the site to you as it's really great.

Ok, now we're going to have lunch and play some TV games. I'll see you soon!

/ Jenny

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sickdays equals finishing-days!

Yeah, my stomach is acting up again. I'm eating hormones to treat something completely different, and it seems like these pills are not getting along with my stomach. At all. I feel like I haven't worked a whole week since November (I have, but it doesn't feel like it)! I had a vacation day on Monday, and then my stomach started spazzing out, so for these past two days I've mostly been horizontal on the couch. No fun at all!

But! I managed to do some knitting after all. Some days, when it's really bad, I feel to lousy to even knit, but yesterday I managed to get some knitting done in the afternoon at least. And I finished my Ill Met by Moonlight socks!

I think I told you that they are a little bit on the big side, but that's ok. I was afraid that I would run out of yarn for a while, but I had nearly 10 grams left over, so that was fine. I really like them, and they were a fun knit!

I also cast on new stuff this week. On Monday I started Sofie's Slouch, a hat I'm making for my mom. I'm making it in KnitPicks Stroll, colourway Saphire Heather, and holding the yarn double. It's looking really good so far!

Mom requested a blue slouchy hat a while ago, and I'm hoping to get this done fairly quickly. We still have lots and lots of snow and cold here, but you never know how long the winter will last. Next week is spring break week, and as my sister is a teacher she gets some days off. She's going home to visit our parents, and I hope I can finish the hat and send it with her.

Today, as I had kitchenered the toe on the Ill Met socks, I decided to start a new pair of socks too. I'm already working on the Vanilla Bean socks in the stripy KnitPicks Felici yarn, but I really want a pair of more complicated socks on the go as well. After much picking and choosing, I settled on the Gördes socks by Hunter Hammersen.

I'm making them in Shibui Knits sock yarn (100 % superwash merino, 175 m/50 g) in the colourway Periwinkle, and so far I like the yarn. It's been a while since I made socks without nylon in them, but since it's plied so tightly I can't really tell the difference. I'm not hard on socks at all, so I have no problem with wearing socks without nylon.

I got some more yarn this week too! First, the two skeins I got from MarigoldJen before Christmas finally arrived. It's her BFL sock yarn (75 % wool/25 % nylon, 425 m/100 g), and the colourway is called Apple of Megan's Eye. 

This colour is specially dyed for the Stockinette Zombies, and I think there are only about 70 skeins of each weight yarn in each colour (this is Megan's colour. There is also an Amy colour, Punky Plum, and Jen dyed in sock weight and Worsted weight). The skeins were available for preorder for just a couple of hours before they were all sold out, and I managed to snag me two of them. In March there will be a KAL with the yarn, and I think I'm going to make a pair of Laris Designs gloves. I just haven't decided on which yet!

I also got my first club shipment in the Cookie A Sock club this week, and this yarn is amazing! I think most members have gotten theirs by now, but I'm just warning you about spoilers ahead.

The yarn is Indigo Dragonfly MCN Sock yarn (80 % merino/10 % cashmere/10 % nylon, 344 m/100 g), and the colourway is called E Pluribus Nom Nom Nom (Out of Many Jars, One Cookie). I LOVE this yarn! It is one of the softest sock yarns I have ever felt, and the emerald green is just perfect! I'm not over the moon for any of the two patterns this month, so I'll probably make something else with it. It's just so pretty I have a hard time deciding on which pattern would make it justice!

I also got a project bag with the shipment, and I think it's the same as the previous years (with the exception of the year printed on it, of course). 

And two cookie recipes as well, which I'll definitely try to make. It shouldn't be too hard to substitute the wheat flour for gluten free flour, I usually do that when I bake without too much trouble. I'll do that when my stomach has settled down a bit though, right now I'm not really in the mood for cookies at all!

Ok, now I'm going to watch some podcasts and maybe knit some more too. And possibly dare to have lunch!

/ Jenny

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Knitting like the wind!

I've had a real finishing week this past week! I've been mostly focused on my Grey Havens sweater, and yesterday I finally finished it! I sewed in all the ends, sewed on the buttons, and blocked it at once, as I really wanted to wear it today. It's Thomas' birthday today, and we went with some friends for lunch at the museum restaurant where he works, and had soup and cake buffet. I set the fan on the sweater, and it actually dried over night so I could wear it. 

I LOVE it! The sleeves are a tad long, but I can live with that. The buttons are perfect with the sweater, and it fits me like a glove. I'll get a lot of use out of this one!

After I washed and blocked the sweater I also finally finished the first of the Ill Met by Moonlight socks that I've been working on since before Christmas.

They are a little bit big on me, but not big enough that I feel I need to give them to someone else. They just aren't snug on the feet, but they are pretty enough that I don't care. I'm almost past the pattern part on the leg of the second sock too, so hopefully the second one will go a lot faster.

Then today while we sat in the restaurant waiting for the exhibition that we were going to to open, I pulled out my Vanilla Bean socks, and I finished the afterthought heel on the first sock on those too!

These are instead a little bit small for me, I think I could have made one more colour stripe before I started the toe, but I've never made afterthought heel socks before so I wasn't sure on when to start the toe. They fit me ok, they are just a little bit short in the foot part. I'll wear these anyway too, as I really love them!

Oh, I've also gotten some more yarn in the mail this week! Do you remember that I thought I wouldn't have enough of the Madelinetosh Pashmina that I made the Grey Havens from? I did have enough, I used 3.9 skeins out of my four, but to be on the safe side I ordered one more from Eat.Sleep.Knit while they still had that same lot. And as I ordered from the States, I figured I could just as well get something else, as the shipping is so expensive anyway. So I got five skeins of Dream in Color Classy (100 % Merino, 229 m/113 g) in the colourway Chinatown Apple.

I think it might become either an Astrid sweater or a Dark and Stormy cardigan. It's very pretty and very very squishy! When I had placed those skeins in the shopping cart, the store told me that I only had a few yards left to reach my first mile milestone and get a welcome package, so I also got a skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock:

It's 80 % merino/20 % nylon, 398 m/100g, and the colourway is called Harvest. It's a really pretty, golden yellow which will become very pretty socks!

Then a couple of days later my final big purchase came from The Loopy Ewe, and I could not be more happy! Three huge skeins of Wollmeise DK (100 % superwash merino, 428 m/200g) in the colourway Unbeschrieblich!

The name actually means indescribable, and I think that is just what the colour is. It's a very pretty brownish purple, and I love it. I have two skeins of the same colour in fingering weight too, which I don't really know what I'll make from yet. The DK will definitely become a sweater or cardigan for me though.

Other than that not much has been going on here. Lots to do at work, and since Thomas has been away with his job for almost all of this past week I've mostly been parked on the couch in the evenings, knitting and listening to podcasts. I have the day off tomorrow, and I think the day will be spent mostly with knitting and a little bit of house cleaning!

/ Jenny

Saturday, February 02, 2013

I love yarn clubs!

It's just so much fun to have stuff arriving in the mail all the time! Right now I'm actually in four different clubs, but I only have one more shipment from the Sheepy Time Knits Time Traveler club (which will be arriving in March), and two more from Mad Color Fiber Arts Geeky tour club (which will be arriving in February and March). Then it's the rest of the year with The Knitting Goddess and Cookie A :)

I do think I might join in for a second round with mad Color Fiber Arts though. I got the first shipment in that club a couple of days ago, and it is lovely! But first, I need to remind you of what I got from Sheepy Time Knits about two weeks or so ago:

This colourway is called the Medusa Cascade. It's really pretty, and I love how Mandy interpreted the colour inspirations. Then the yarn arrived from Mad Color Fiber Arts:

This is Shiny (70 % wool/30 % silk, 342 m/110 g). The collourway? ALSO Medusa Cascade! Isn't that a funny coincidence? The colours are completely different, and I love them both, so I'm very happy. This will probably also be more socks in the future.

I actually had two more packages arriving in the mail this week, but in my defence one of them was ordered right after Christmas. Sometimes it just takes a while for stuff to get here from the States. I ordered a stitch light from Buffy Ann Design, which is a little light that you put around your neck and direct at the knitting. 

Thomas always complains when I use the spotlight next to the couch, as he gets a glare from it in the TV screen when playing games. I hope this will suit him better. I like it just fine, even though it takes a little fiddling to get it pointed right.

The other package I got was from Garnkorgen, and contained three DPN holders that I really needed. I've been knitting so much stuff on DPN's simultaneously lately that my two older holders weren't enough. Now I have five, which is more than enough.

In that package I also got three super cute buttons:

I have no idea when I'll use them, but they were just too cute to resist. Tiny sheep!

This week seems like it has been a long one, and I haven't got a lot of knitting done. I did put the sleeves on the Grey Havens sweater, and I've knit almost one repeat of the chart pattern above it.

It is looking really good, and I really want it done so I can wear it! I'll probably try to get as much done on it as I can this weekend, as we don't have any real plans. Thomas is leaving on Sunday to be gone the whole of next week, with work, so I'll probably get some done next week too.

I also decided that I really needed a new work knit, since I finished the Aquaphobia socks. So the other day I cast on for a pair of Vanilla Bean socks, in my KnitPicks Felici yarn.

The colourway is called Time Traveler, and contains the colours of Doctor Who's scarf, and I keep it in my Doctor Who box bag from JessaLu to keep the theme going. I really like these socks, they are super easy. However, I'll make my first afterthought heel on these, which will be exciting! I have no clue how to make one, but I guess I'll be able to find tons of tutorials online.

Other than that I haven't touched my other projects. The Ill Met by Moonlight socks could really need some love, and I think I'll try to finish those once the sweater is done. And my Julissa sweater that I'm making with Wollmeise DK has actually started whispering my name some evenings now. But I think I want to finish Grey Havens first. 

Now it's time for lunch, and then maybe a short walk outside as we're actually having sunshine today!

/ Jenny