The 4th, General Update, Trip/Garden Pictures

Happy Independence Day my fellows Americans! Today’s going to be a low-key day for me since I’ve already been to the requisite cook out (yesterday), have seen plenty of fireworks (Disney World fireworks have ruined me for all others), and it’s supposed to rain here. For some flag-waving variety, here’s the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. More info about the flag at the Smithsonian, which has the flag in its collection.

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The flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner

I’ve been plugging away on my two knitting WIPs and making steady progress. I finished the Hourglass Cowl Scarf over the weekend. We drove up to New Jersey (central NJ, near New Brunswick) to spend time with my in-laws, so I finished it at my sister-in-law’s house. I need to weave in the ends and maybe add fringe (or maybe not), and wash and block it, so I’m not posting pictures of the FO just yet.

My Old Town Cardigan (aka Future Favorite Two) is at a really ugly looking stage: I’ve put the body on stitch holders (scrap yarn) and am knitting the sleeves 2 at a time in the round. It looks like a mess, like I’m knitting a Thneed from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, but I made lots of progress on the sleeves in the 3 hour car ride to NJ, at my SIL’s, and during the ride home. The pattern doesn’t have decreases in the sleeve and I don’t think I put decreases in my first Old Town, but I may need to with this one. My gauge is a little bit larger than what the pattern calls for and I think I’d rather not have two giant sacks hanging off the body. I need to poke around in other people’s project notes on Ravelry to see if anyone else has added decreases and/or just add my own.

Old Town sleeve progress
Old Town Sleeve Progress

When I wasn’t knitting, I was taking pictures. I posted most of these to Instagram also. While I have the Instagram widget set up on my blog, I suspect most of you read it the way I read blogs – through WordPress, email, BlogLovin, and various other readers that don’t load the whole WP page. I know I could force everyone to read it that way, but I really hate it when I’m on a mobile device and someone has done that. So. Here are the pictures in mostly the order I took them – my apologies if you’re seeing them twice (or just uninterested). Also, all of them are presented as-shot, with no filters or adjustments, and all were taken with Camera+ on my iPhone 6.

Industrial Sunset
Industrial Sunset, taken from the car on the PA Turnpike in a (surprise!) industrial area north of Philadelphia. One of three spectacular sunsets during the trip.
Trenton Makes The World Takes
Trenton Makes The World Takes neon sign on the Lower Trenton Toll Supported Bridge bridge over the Delaware River on the PA-NJ border. Some of the letters were out when we went by on Friday, but they were lit for the return trip on Sunday.
My New Bling
My New Bling. One of my nephews bestowed this beauty on me.
My SIL's garden
One of the flowers in my SIL’s garden; I forgot to ask her for the name.
Hosta Flower
Hosta Flower
Japanese Maple Leaf
Japanese Maple Leaf
Purple Smoke Bush
Purple Smoke Bush Leaf
Celosia, aka Cock's Comb
Celosia, aka Cock’s Comb
Oak Leaf Hydrangea
Oak Leaf Hydrangea
Lobelia
Lobelia
Peony after the petals are gone
Peony after the petals are gone
Elephant Ear
Elephant Ear
Turnpike Sunset
Turnpike Sunset, from the return trip last night

So Many Choices

I’ve been busy with my oldest’s high school graduation and his new student orientation at

GraduateBrandon and Me
Obligatory Graduation Photo

West Virginia University, which is about 3 hours away from where we live. I’m so excited about WVU now part of me wishes I was the one going off to school. I think it’s a great fit for my son, who’s going in undecided – they’ve got a lot of programs that help students figure out what they want to do/what they love and could do for the rest of their life. I do keep reminding him that he’ll probably have more than one career, so he won’t feel so much pressure to choose the one, right thing that he’ll do forever. I’m certainly not doing what I first majored in (Creative Writing) or what I have my BA in (Rhetoric and French). I remember feeling overwhelmed instead of freed by the number of choices I had in my late teens and early twenties and I hope to help him avoid that.

Anyway. On to knitting choices …

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Hourglass Cowl, soon to be Hourglass Scarf

I finished the Hourglass Cowl that I’m designing and working on. Having the pattern all squished up into a cowl doesn’t do it any favors, though – it might as well be in 1×1 ribbing. I spread part of it out flat on my mannequin, but the reality of an actual moving breathing person wearing it means it won’t likely sit that way for long on a human. So I don’t think it wants to be a cowl; it wants to be a scarf. At least as a scarf it has a fighting chance for part of it to lay flat and show off the wavy ribbing. I picked apart the 3 needle bind off I did to add some pattern repeats to the scarf (49″ isn’t really long enough  IMO) and am contemplating the options for finishing the ends. Fringe? Some well-placed tassels? Maybe some artful decreases & partial bind-off to highlight the stitch pattern?

I’ve been working bit by bit on my Old Town cardigan – it’s my portable project because I don’t need to follow a chart as I do for the Hourglass project. I brought it with me to graduation, since we arrived almost 2 hours before the ceremony because of parking & traffic. I also brought it with me to WVU orientation Friday, but only pulled it out in the last session of the afternoon when I was desperate for something to help me stay engaged with the speakers. I should have gotten it out in the hour-long session before lunch; I’d forgotten how much listening to a boring speaker takes out of me. It’s probably a good thing I’m not the one going to college in August. 🙂

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Old Town Cardigan, Starting the Bodice Section

The Cowl Kick Continues

That new design I’ve been working on has finally come together. Switching the needle size and finding the right yarn (nothing variegated!) were all it took for me to like the stitch pattern, which is Lazy Rib out of Barbara G. Walker’s Charted Knitting Designs: A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns with some minor modification.

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New cowl in a wool-silk blend yarn, the only solid fingering weight yarn I’ve got at the moment  – I tried the variegated sock yarns and they obscured the pattern & looked awful.

I think I’ve even got the chart finalized after 23887492834 versions and tweaks. I include written instructions as well as charts with my patterns and I dread writing out the 44 row repeat for this. I could skip it, but don’t want to put off anyone who can’t read charts yet. Then again, I’ll likely end up grafting it together to make a loop – an advanced skill, so I should be safe assuming advanced knitters know how to read charts also. Something to ponder and decide on while I finish knitting and get a move on writing the pattern in inDesign.

And names. The first name I’d like for this is taken – there’s already an Hourglass Cowl on Ravelry, so I’ve got to come up with something else. The pattern reminds me a little bit of seed pods but “Seed Pod Cowl” lacks a certain something, it sounds alien, like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That’s not the vibe I’m going for. So that’s still percolating.

I’ve also been scoping out calls for submission in the Designers group on Ravelry. I think I’m going to pick one and give what I think of as real pattern design a go. I mean, what I’m doing is pattern design but so far self-publishing hasn’t been a great success, so why not try this route?

The only problem is that this month is crazy busy at home; my oldest son is graduating from high school next week (!!!), we’re having a big party, and he’s got new student orientation the following week, which means an overnight trip. And my other two sons have things going on as well. And my daily schedule is about to go into summer mode. Also, I’m supposed to be writing; I kept saying I want to write/be a writer (more than blog writing & the tech writing I do & used to do full time) and my therapist has me on assignment, so to speak, to get me going. But I haven’t gotten going.  And I have a lot more excuses to use to not be bold and give pattern submission (and writing) a go. Imagine the things I could be doing if I were as good at getting things done as I am at procrastinating! I’ve definitely earned this patch:

Rose Herringbone Cowl

Herringbone Cowl - Rose, double loop with right side showing
The finished Herringbone Infinity Cowl, modeled by my to-be-named assistant, The Mannequin.

I finally finished it, washed and blocked and everything. And of course listed it on etsy. Calculating the price for this was tricky because I won’t be able to replicate it when I finish this skein; I do have enough for one more – I only used half the skein. The yarn is discontinued and there’s nothing like it on the market right now; it’s a bulky weight chain plied tape yarn made with 90% extra fine merino and 10% nylon.

Herringbone Cowl - Rose, close up of right side
The right side of the fabric so you can see the structure of the yarn. (I did take another close up of it a few weeks ago, but this one is, uh, fresh.)

I think I mentioned in a previous post that knitting with this yarn was really tricky, like knitting really soft rubber bands or super stretchy elastic. The finished cowl is really, really soft – it doesn’t feel like wool at all – and it’s also really, really stretchy. Stretchy enough to comfortably wear tripled around your neck, maybe even quadrupled.

I know it’s not really the right season for selling cowls and scarves, but I can’t stop designing and making them; they’re so quick and easy and fun. I’m in the early stages of designing another one, this time with sock yarn because there are just so many great hand dyed sock yarns out there to work with.

In listing this cowl on etsy, I realized that I haven’t listed the first sample that I made, the one that’s pictured in the pattern. I also have a finished Owl Honeycomb Blanket to list, but I need to list it as a lap blanket, not a baby blanket, because it’s knit with wool that must be hand washed and I wouldn’t give something that needs to be hand-washed a new parent (or a new baby, for that matter).

I suddenly have lots to do; I wish I had thought of all this the other day when I felt like I had nothing to do (nothing but housework, anyway, and who wants to do that?) and therefore spent the day on Pinterest creating an account & many boards for The Yarn Office. I’m glad I created a separate one for The Yarn Office, but part of me wishes that I’d just used my regular old account; I’m repinning a lot from it. I’m organizing it a little bit better, so at least there’s that. And I’m still pinning non-yarney things to my other account.

Anyway, I’m rambling now. I’m going to go take more pictures and list those two other things on etsy. Happy Friday! Have a good weekend!

New Project & Pattern: Herringbone Infinity Cowl

I’ve been working on another cowl, this time in herringbone stitch. I tried herringbone stitch a long time ago, in 2008 or 2009, and had a lot of difficulty knitting it. I think I was using right-sized needles for the yarn which was too tight; this time I used much larger needles than what’s called for (US size 15 for bulky yarn vs. 9-11 recommended by the Craft Yarn Council) and it’s much much easier to knit.

HerringboneInfinityDoubleLoop
Finished Herrinbone Infinity Cowl in Noro Akogare

I posted a progress picture of the first cowl last Wednesday,  finished the cowl on Friday, wrote the pattern up & sent it to my tech editor friend on Sunday. My project pictures & notes are on Ravelry, of course. Anyway – to make a long story short: the pattern is ready, but I’m not. The cowl is knit like a regular scarf, from end to end (rather than long side to long side), so to finish it and make it a loop, it has to be grafted. I just used regular kitchener stitch to graft the first cowl and if you know where to look, you can see what looks like two rows of stockinette breaking up the herringbone pattern. I want to see if I can graft it in pattern somehow, which I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around. I should probably be practicing on a swatches and working it out on paper instead of starting a whole new scarf.

PinkHerringboneInfinity
WIP: Herringbone Infinity Cowl in Cherry Tree Hill Bunji

But I couldn’t help myself – I needed to try this yarn. It’s Cherry Tree Hill Bunji, a chained tape yarn that’s so elastic it’s like knitting with soft, silky rubber bands. I got it in a stash sale on Ravelry along with the Noro Akogare I’ve been using; both are bulky weight and both are discontinued, which probably isn’t the best yarn to design patterns around but I enjoy the challenge of using the yarn in a way that highlights its best qualities. And buying yarn from a stash sale makes me feel like I’m helping the seller and I know I’m getting a good deal on the yarn.

Bunji is bulky yarn but so thin & stretchy that I swatched it on size 10 needles, which was too tight. I upped my needle size to 13, which was better but still not right. I ended up with size 15, which is what the pattern calls for and will make a better example of the finished cowl, and I’m knitting unnaturally loosely for me so I don’t stretch the yarn too much. I’m still not getting gauge, but it’s close. And it’s only a cowl – gauge isn’t quite so important for sizing and fit of a scarf or cowl.

The finished fabric is super stretchy but loose and still dense enough when it’s slack to not too look lacy. It’s very soft, much softer than I expected considering the texture of the yarn. I posted a macro of it last night to Instagram; I like that it shows the chain ply & color transitions in detail. One of my friends said it looks like something from the sea, which I hadn’t thought of before. The colorway, according to the seller on Rav, is rose reds – that doesn’t really suggest the sea to me. But it does look like coral or an exotic underwater plant.  What do you think?

PinkHerringboneInfinityClose
Herringbone Infinity Cowl II Macro

Mannequin Arrival, Thoughts on The Yarn Office

I ordered a mannequin last week because the latest batch of pictures for the Quill Eyelet Cowl were pretty dismal selfies. I am no model and while I can sometimes get an acceptable-to-me selfie, it takes me a long time and some days I’m just not into it. Enter the mannequin. It was under $60 total and was super easy to assemble. It did smell a bit, so I kept it on our screened in porch for a day and then sprayed it down with Febreeze. I’ll probably name it – something like this really needs one – but for now it’s just The Mannequin.

MultiLaceMannequin
Small Quill Eyelet Cowl On My New Mannequin

I started retaking pictures of The Mannequin in quill eyelet lace cowls to replace the dismal selfies in the pattern listing on Ravelry & Craftsy and to get ready to release it on etsy since today is the deadline I set for offering it for free. I think they turned out pretty well – definitely better than wild haired me scrambling to get in position while the camera timer counts down.

Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time on SEO for The Yarn Office, my etsy shop. Honestly, I’m getting a little discouraged. I know SEO and etsy shop marketing are long term activities that aren’t necessarily going to yield immediate results, but some positive feedback, even a purchase, would be nice. I started the shop in 2011, tried for a few months to get it off the ground, and then got distracted by/entranced with roller derby. This time around I’m trying to be more tenacious and patient while reviving the shop (or really, just breathing some life into it).

Even if I end up putting more money into it than I’m getting out of it (the current state of affairs), I’ll likely still continue designing patterns and knitting and making one-off art pieces. I’m just not sure if I’ll be doing those things on etsy – I’d rather spend money on etsy buying handmade goods than futilely trying to sell them.