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3 Swatches for o w l s

With a baby daughter who is uncannily aware of owls, it is perhaps no surprise that I should be keeping my eyes out for sweaters featuring her favorite bird.  I received a couple of great suggestions through the comments on my blog, and that got me swimming through Ravelry and googling about for sweaters featuring owls.  Originally this quest was to find something for her.  But then I came upon a pattern, sized for an adult woman, that I simply couldn't resist:  o w l s by Kate Davies.

Kate has kindly made the pattern for this sweater freely available.  And the more times I looked at it, the more I knew I had to have it.  Knit in the round from the bottom up in aran weight yarn,with feminine shaping and a yoke of cabled owls.  A perfect winter sweater addition. Especially since I had the perfect yarn in my stash (a yarn purchased many moons ago on sale and which I just *had* to have -- but which I had no idea what I would do with) ready to roll.

20090129_ChunkyShetlandEide.jpgThis is Jamieson's Chunky Shetland in the colorway "Eider Duck".  It looks grey, but it has lovely flecks of red and blue that give it more depth than your average grey yarn.  Definitely owl-y, I think.

The only challenge was to swatch in the round.  Rather than truly knitting in the round, I knit square swatches and after each row, slid the swatch back to the left hand needle, drawing a length of unused yarn along the back so that all the rows were knit, as if I was knitting in the round. 

20090129_3SwatchesForOwls.jpgAfter knitting each swatch, I cut the yarn bridges in the back and soaked the swatch in water with a little Eucalan to make sure the yarn had a chance to do anything it might do upon making contact with water.  Then I let them dry flat.  The top swatch was knit on US 10 needles, the middle swatch was knit on US 10.5 needles and the bottom swatch was knit on US 11 needles*. Of course, with the top two swatches I got the right row gauge but my stitch gauge was too "narrow" and with the bottom swatch, I got the right stitch gauge (3.25 stitches/inch), but my row gauge is off by a bit (4.75 stitches/inch instead of 5).  If I was on my own, I would probably choose the tension of the second swatch (I think it's a little better for the long-term wear of the yarn), but the swatch on the US 11/8 mm needles is not all that bad, and the extra stretch/looseness in the fabric will probably be better for a sweater that is meant to be close fittting, but is also made out a yarn that while nice, is unlikely to work directly next to my skin.

By amazing chance, I not only have the circular needles I need, I also have the right sized double points as well (from my felting days) -- which is good, because I think I'm going to start with a sleeve, just to be sure that my gauge holds up in a larger piece -- since we all know how disingenuous swatches can be. 

Anyone else out there knitting the o w l s?  What yarns are you using? 

*As an aside... does anyone know why the US needle numbering system does not include a 7 mm needle?  A 10 is a 6 mm needle, a 10.5 is 6.5 mm and an 11 is 8 mm. 

Schaefer Socks

I am making slow progress on several projects right now: the Rivolo Scarf, the Zebra Striper Sweater, my Silkie Socks, the Three-Ply Targhee Blanket squares.  And I even repaired the hole in John's second Mudslide sock.  As I was working on the first of my Silkie socks I had a moment of clarity where I realized that while I like all my complicated projects, I really just wanted something simple to knit.  Something I could knit on autopilot.  Something that I could get started on after going shopping in my stash.  Something unequivocally for me. 

For the answer to the first item, the best possibility seemed to be socks.  Just a pair of simple stockinette socks using my standard toe-up pattern.  For the yarn, I decided that I wanted to knit a pair of socks from yarn that was not 100% merino in composition so that I could (hopefully) count on many years of care-free wear.  Originally I was thinking of the skein of Austermann Step that I have in my stash, but then I discovered the ball of Schaefer Anne (in a colorway whose name I do not remember and could not identify from looking at the Schaefer website) that I had purchased to try out a pooling scarf pattern in a long ago IK -- only to discover that the way this particular skein was dyed was not conducive to getting it to pool the way the pattern was supposed to.  The yarn was already wound into a ball, ready to go.  And since Anne is a wool, mohair, nylon blend, I figured it would definitely create both durable and warm socks.

20090125_SchaeferSockToe.jpgI started out this project on US Size 1 needles (2.25 mm) but the yarn was just too fine and the fabric seemed a bit to open, so I ripped it off those needles and cast on to size 0's  (2.0 mm).  It's been a long time size I've had a set of 0's in my hands, but they were the right needles for this yarn -- in fact, I bet I could have kit on 00's and also gotten acceptable fabric.  What I found interesting was that the final number of stitches after I increased was 64 -- which is what I usually get on larger needles -- so I'm getting a gauge of about 8 stitches/inch.

I can't say that I adore the pooling behavior of this yarn, but it also doesn't bother me a great deal either. The colors are very evocative of peacock feathers.  It has a high sheen (due to the mohair I am sure) and the sock fabric is soft and light weight.   About the only real complaint I have is that the stuff is prone to splitting -- especially on 2.0 mm needles with sharp tips (these are also Darn Pretty Needles  --  when I purchased them, I took advantage of the special pricing they had for a full set of sock sized needles).  But this is also not too suprising given the yarn's component fibers.

20090125_SchaeferSockVertic.jpgThis has turned out to be exactly the project I needed.  Simple, colorful, quick and stashbusting.  A nice reminder that sometimes a project doesn't have to be complicated to be good for the soul.