Gearing up for the Spring 2011 House Cup term!

It’s almost May, and as my House Cup friends know, that means it’s almost time for a new term! Only 2 days until the new term starts, which means Sorting is up and the new common rooms are open!

What that means, to those unfamiliar with the Cup, is that I am frantically trying to free my needles, while planning what I’ll be making in the next three months.

Currently, I have three projects on the needles/hook: a pair of Crocheted Felted Slippers, a shawl I’m test knitting, and a pair of Endpaper Mitts. The slippers and mitts are both about half done (one of the pair is done) and the shawl is about 25% done, I think (it’s so hard to gauge the halfway mark on triangular shawls!).

I’ll probably be putting the mitts and slippers aside for a while, but will definitely be finishing the shawl, since the deadline for the test knit is mid-May. Side note – check out the cool cobweb-like appearance my alpaca yarn is giving between stitches!

I’ve got some pretty big plans for this term, and I mean that quite literally. Not only am I going to attempt to get as many classes done as I can, plus detention, but now that I’ve completed one OWL, I can propose two in one term, and I am crazy enough to do it!

In fact, I think I’m extra crazy when you consider what my plans for my two OWLs are.

This beautifully tonaled yarn should make a really pretty shawl.

One of my proposals is to make a full-size beaded Aeolian shawl, which should use about 1100 yards of yarn (according to the pattern), and a couple thousand beads. I’ll be using size two needles, so it will probably be pretty slow going, but the end result should be great. I’ll be using a blue-green laceweight yarn with matching blue-green beads, both of which I found on Etsy. I have to admit, I was thrilled to discover that my beads perfectly matched my yarn.

Looking at other projects on Ravelry, I think I should be able to get the shawl done within the three month timespan.

One difficulty I do anticipate is figuring out where my halfway point is. It’s difficult because the shawl gets bigger with almost every row, so I can’t just measure halfway. I’m going to have to do some research on what others have considered their halfway point, since I know there have been several other OWL Aeolians.

My other OWL will be good for knitting on the go and on car trips, which is good because I’ll be doing a lot of riding in the car this summer: I’m planning to make a Bernat Sampler Afghan, with some minor changes. The pattern as written calls for 30 blocks measuring 7″ by 9″, with 15 each of two colors, making a blanket that’s about 4 feet long and just under 4 feet wide. There are five different texture patterns to the blocks, and they’re arranged in a specific order.

I’ll be using dark green, dark blue and black to make my blanket.

My blanket is also going to be 30 blocks, arranged in the same texture pattern, but they’re going to be 10″ by 12″ and I’m going to make 10 each of three colors. My blanket should be 50″ by 72″ before any edging, so it should be a full afghan size instead of a lap blanket.

I won’t be doing all 30 squares for the OWL, however, as I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to finish it in the three months, especially considering I’ll also be working on the classes and Aeolian. My proposal is going to be for 19 sqaures: 9 black and 10 blue. I already knit one black square to use as my gauge swatch, and that square took me about three hours to knit, so I’m estimating my OWL at around 55 crafting hours, averaging about a block and a half a week.

For right now, I’m working to get that Snowdrop Shawl done so I can properly focus on my new term. My main problem this weekend is going to be deciding whether to cast on and swatch my Aeolian, or work to finish the other shawl! 🙂

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Frustration yields creativity

How difficult is it to find one simple little knitting tool?

Apparently, if that tool is a yarn stranding guide, the answer is nearly impossible.

I’m currently knitting a pair of Endpaper Mitts, and have to switch colors every 1 to 3 stitches. Normally, when I’m knitting colorwork, I’ll just drop one color, pick up the next and knit, drop that one, pick up the next and knit, etc. When you’ve got 4 or 5 stitches before you pick up the other color again, that’s not so bad. However, picking up a new yarn every other stitch gets tedious quickly.

I know one method of stranded knitting is to hold one color in your left hand and knit it continental style, and hold the other color in your right hand and knit it English style. However, try as I might, I have a lot of difficulty knitting English style. I just can’t seem to get my tension to match that of my usual continental knitting, which is a problem when you’re using both styles in one object.

Having seen stranding guides in the store before, I figured purchasing one would be the perfect solution to my problem. I’d seen them in stores constantly, even laughed at why someone would need that (before I knew how annoying the drop-and-pick-up) can really be.

Do you think I could find one when I actually needed it? Of course not! I tried both big box craft stores and specialty yarn stores, and just could not find one. The only place I could find one was on KnitPicks.com, which didn’t help much considering I’m not planning on spending a full $50 at the moment to get free shipping, and the shipping alone on just the stranding guide would have been more than three times the price of the item.

Frustrated, I finally had the epiphany that I (hopefully) could make my own! I bought some 18 gauge aluminum craft wire at Michaels, with a coupon of course, and brought it home. I figured the aluminum wire would be best because it’s softer and easier to cut than copper, even at the thicker gauge, and it wouldn’t turn my finger green.

I bent the end of the wire around a size 8 (5.0 mm) dpn I just happened to have in my purse, of course, wrapped the rest of the wire around my finger a few times, cut the wire leaving some length on the end, and wrapped the loose end around the same dpn. Happily, I tried it out and it’s working perfectly! Hopefully this mini-tutorial can help someone else as frustrated as I was 🙂

Swallowtail Shawl, finally!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on a Swallowtail Shawl (click here for PDF of pattern) on and off for the past several months, using Knit Picks Shadow Tonal yarn in the Deep Waters colorway. It kept getting put aside in favor of more pressing projects, or out of boredom with the repeating lace.

Finally, I’ve had the drive to finish it, and last night I did!I have to admit, despite my trepidation after reading accounts from people on Ravelry, I didn’t find the nupps difficult at all, and they came out very pretty.

I’m extra excited about this project because it’s the first full lace I’ve done, and my first large-scale blocking.

It took me about an hour to get the pinning done right, but part of that was probably because I’d never pinned anything out to block before. Oh, and my room smelled like wet sheep all night, because I forgot to put any sort of wool wash in the water. Oops. That was definitely a lesson learned.

One thing I did learn was that, when pinning out lace, you can’t just stick the pins in straight up and down, because the lace will pull up and bend the pin forward. I figured out that if I stuck the pins into the mat at an angle, so that the pin was almost flat and was stuck through the mat for most of the pin length, it held much better. I used a 48″ x 96″ x 0.5″ portable foam fitness floor as my blocking mat.

Unfortunately, I forgot to measure it pre-blocking, but while blocking it’s about 53 inches by about 31 inches. I used up just under a full 50-gram skein of the Shadow Tonal.

Without further ado, here she is – my Swallowtail!

Before blocking:

During blocking:

After blocking!

My shawl is coming along nicely!

I started this shawl last year, got distracted, and stopped working on it, but I finally started again and look at how far I’ve come!

The month of the gloves (and hat and cowl and monster)

Remember how I was all about the scarves a few months ago? Well, apparently this month it was gloves that were all the rage.

Let's all say it together now: Awwwwwwww!

If you count pairs I’d started before the month began, I finished a total of 7 pairs of gloves this month, along with a buttoned cowl, a striped scarf, a test knit hat, a cute little monster toy, half a pair of socks, and the baby hats I’m currently crocheting for charity (4 done so far, I’ll update later with my final total).

Of those 7 pairs, 4 of them were Broken Spiral Mitts (each word links to a separate pair), a fingerless glove pattern I test knit for fellow Raveler and HP House Cupper benningsm back in February.

Part of what motivated me to do so much crafting this month was the Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup group on Ravelry, which splits participants up into the four Harry Potter Houses and pitts the four groups against one another in 3-month terms. The group with the most points (gained through crafting for monthly “classes,” term-long “OWLs,” Quidditch, and other bonus point-gathering methods) at the end of the three months wins the House Cup.

Let me tell you, while it may be an internet game of sorts, it’s very competitive, and great for motivation. I definitely wouldn’t have done so much crafting over the past year-plus if it weren’t for the House Cup.

I was particularly motivated to craft this month, because I’d completed a full roster of classes in January and February, and wanted to finish out the term strong.

My first finished project of the month was a redo on a pair of gloves that I’d made for my boyfriend’s sister-in-law. The first pair was too big in the hands and too small in the fingers, so I started over (with measurements this time!) and they fit perfectly, which made both of us happy. 🙂

My second and third finished projects, both part of my OWL, were particularly special to me. One was a pair of London Eye Glittens (convertible fingerless gloves/full mittens) that I made for my sister using Patons Classic Wool, and the other was a pair of Celtic Moonrise Mittens I made for myself out of Knit Picks Capra yarn (one of my favorite yarns ever!).

I loved the glittens for several reasons:

1) They were SO my sister. Purple and green, mismatched-bur-not, bright colors, the whole nine yards.
2) They were fun to knit. They used some techniques I hadn’t used before, like picking up stitches in the middle of the piece for the mitten flap, and cabling without using a cable needle.
3) My sister was super excited to get them, and she wears them all the time (honestly, she’s one of the most knitworthy people I know).

The Celtic Moonrise Mittens were great for a list of reasons of their own:

1) The cable pattern is just gorgeous. I’ve always loved Celtic knot patterns, and had been looking for a good mitten pattern incorporating the knots.

2) The yarn is soooo comfortable. It is nice and soft, but still has great stitch definition, so it really shows off the cables.

3) I was able to modify the pattern very easily in order to continue the cables to the end of the mittens instead of the cutoff the pattern called for.

My other favorite project of the month: my Happy Monstie. I think his photo speaks for itself.

😀

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