Recently in o w l s Category

YarnCon

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While a whole  lot of lucky knitters and spinners are heading off to Rhinebeck this weekend, I'll be staying here in Chicago and checking out a much smaller fiber show, YarnCon.  What YarnCon lacks in the presence of live sheep, it makes up for by being practically within walking distance of my house. But don't think that I won't be a little jealous of all those heading to NY -- though that jealousy will mostly be over getting to see fibery friends rather than getting to indulge in fibery consumerism.

In addition to YarnCon (which should be doubly fun, because I hope to be heading there with Julie), since the weather is likely to keep us indoors this weekend (what, I ask you, happened to the gentle entry of fall?) I suspect my needles will be in motion.  I cast on and got started with Elijah this afternoon, and last weekend, while heading out to our pumpkin patch experience I picked up my second Francie sock and made some headway on that project.  The other thing I did today was start to work out the design for my next pair of socks for John -- these socks are going to be my first foray into designing with twisted stitches, which I think will be just the perfect amount of patterning for the lovely cashmere blend Sophie's Toes.

In lieu of actual knitting photos, I have a few pictures from our trip to see the pumpkins.

20091015_Pumpkins.jpgI just loved the way those green squash looked with the pumpkins.  They were just the perfect sagey color contrast to the bright orange.  Definitely not a pair of colors I would have thought to put together, though!

20091015_MeAndZ.jpgAnd here is rare photo of me and Z -- riding a toddler sized train and both wearing our handknits. Z has on (and she actually requested to wear) her upsized "Baby Surprise" sweater and I spent the whole day cozy and warm in my cotton turtleneck and OWLS sweater (which I love).  The Owls are rapidly becoming one of my favorite go-to cold weather sweaters! 


o w l s in Flight

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20090303_owlsOwl.jpg
Pattern: o w l s by Kate Davies
Yarn: Jamieson's Chunky Shetland in "Eider Duck"
Needles: KnitPicks Harmony Interchangeables, US 11 and US 10.5

Originally, I was planning to post a book review today, but after sewing on all those button eyes over the weekend and giving the sweater a soak Monday night and finding it ready to wear on Tuesday morning, it was clear that the Owls were going to have their day earlier than planned. You might think that these pictures were taken by my regular photographer, but, lucky girl that I sometimes am, my dad is here in Chicago this week, and was able to sit in for this shoot.  My dad has been looking at me from behind a camera since before I can remember and I think he did a great job making both his daughter and the sweater look good.  And the Chicago weather helped out too by giving us a sunny (if cold) morning. 

20090303_owlsSide.jpgThis sweater marks two firsts: the first yoked sweater I've made for myself and the first sweater knit from the bottom up in the round.  I think that I will have to try out a few more yoked patterns, because the yoke, in combination with the waist shaping created a very flattering (I think) sweater for my body type.  Especially considering that this sweater is knit in a chunky weight yarn -- and heavy weight yarns rarely do much for me when it comes to being figure flattering. 

20090303_owlsFront.jpgThe design was meant to be form fitting and I chose the medium size (the third size) which has a bust measurement of 36".  I probably would have also been fine with the small size as well, but I wanted to make sure I could wear a turtleneck underneath the sweater because the yarn isn't quite soft enough for me to wear against my skin. 

When it comes to yarn, this sweater was incredibly economical.  I used just a little under 5 skeins of the Jamieson's Chunky Shetland, so it didn't even take 600 yards.  This is one of the few sweaters for which being short waisted is something of a benefit as I didn't have to knit must past the waist shaping before I was ready to put the body together with the sleeves and knit the yoke.   I will also say that, so far, after a day of wear, I am very happy with the yarn -- it softened up nicely after a warm bath and while there is a tiny bit of fuzzing in the areas that rub, it's not really pilling at all -- if it still behaves this way after a few more wearings, this will become one of those yarns that I continue to reach for when I want to make a quick winter sweaeter.   Not only did I use relatively little yarn, but this thing knit up very quickly once I got rolling.  If you want an instant gratification sweater, this one is right up there.

20090303_owlsNeck.jpgThe owls are a real hoot to knit, a simple motif that keeps you knitting just so that you can see your owls come to life.  Putting on all those button eyes (36 of them!) seems like it would be a real trial, but those buttons create magic for those owls and I found that I just wanted to keep going until I had them all sewed on.

I only have one (minor) criticism of the sweater -- I think that there's probably one too many increases after the waist shaping -- at least for me -- and its a little gapey in the back.   I probably would have been better off evenly distributing those increases around the whole sweater instead of just at the back.   Of course, if I had done that, I would have had to make sure to position those increases so that they didn't change how the owls were centered on the front. 

I  loved wearing this sweater.  It's whimsical without being childish -- one of those garments that you just can't help smile at when you look down or see yourself in the mirror.  It's shaping and use of bulky yarn makes it flattering for those of us still dealing with a little more post-holiday  cushioning than we would like and it's just perfect for a cold day in Chicago.  With a heavier shirt underneath, I could almost have worn this outside with out a coat. 

The pattern itself is easy to follo,  but make sure that you get the latest version, as Kate, who kindly has made this wonderful pattern available for free, has updated it since she first released it into the wild.   I'm looking forward to the children's version.  Not only so that I can make a similar sweater for a small girl who loves owls, but also so that I can say thank you to Kate for her design with some actual cash.    I would happily have paid for this sweater, given the quality of the pattern and the results!

3 Swatches for o w l s

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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. 

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