What’s in Bloom

I was surprised a few days ago to see that the lilacs are in full bloom already. That’s three or four weeks earlier than last year.

Garden flowers, April 2014

The daffodils are gone now, along with most of the very early tulips, but the early- to mid-season tulips are in full swing. These are the last of the early red ones:

Garden flowers, April 2014

The current tulips are mostly pink and purple.

Garden flowers, April 2014

Garden flowers, April 2014

Last year I planted some phlox, and I’m glad to see that it’s doing nicely this spring:

Garden flowers, April 2014

The early iris have lots of dark violet buds just about to open, along with some of the mid-season tulips.

I’m glad I have enough varieties of tulips for a fairly long display. If only they would bloom all summer!

 

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FO: Relax

The giant pink tent is complete. [Oh, and look - the lilacs are in full bloom already!]

Relax pattern

And no, it isn’t really all that giant. It just felt that way while I was knitting it.

But still, it’s big.

Relax pattern

I’m very happy with it, and it’s very comfortable to wear.

I did make one mistake, though. When I seamed the shoulders, I forgot that it was supposed to be an exposed seam (3-needle bindoff worked with the wrong sides of the fabric together). Instead, I seamed it with the right sides together for a traditional seam. I’ve been pondering whether it would be possible to change that without messing up the sleeves and neck. Hmmm.

I also made the sleeves longer, and then they grew more than I expected – so they’re a bit longer than I planned. I could easily cut them back and reknit the ribbing, but I’ll probably just leave it alone.

Pattern: Relax, by Ririko, project notes here.
Yarn: JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool Silk 2/18 in “Cassis”, held double. Just under half a cone – about 2400 yards.
Needles: US 6/4mm as the main needle, US 5/3.75mm for the sleeves and neck, US 4/3.5mm for the ribbing
Size: XS

Modifications:  I knit size XS to make it less oversized. Made the neckline slightly less wide by working 3 fewer bindoff stitches on each neck edge (just skipped the last 3 bindoff sts). Made the sleeves a little longer. Made a rolled hem at the bottom edge instead of the ribbing.

I like this pattern a lot, and can see making other versions – one without the attached sleeves to make a short-sleeved one, and perhaps one in a yarn with a higher wool content for colder weather.

I’m glad I changed the neckline – the neck opening is still wide, but not so wide that straps show. It only ended up about half an inch narrower than the pattern specified. If I made it again, I’d probably narrow it even more.

I like how the Zephyr yarn worked out. It’s very lightweight and has lots of drape, which is important for this pattern.

Relax pattern

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The Birds!

I have a couple of birdfeeders in my tiny yard, and love to watch the birds. Living in the city, I don’t have nearly the variety that I used to when I was closer to the mountains, but I especially enjoy the goldfinches.

gold3

I had to change from a mixed birdseed to straight sunflower seed in order to get rid of the sparrows, since they would bully all of the other birds away. Fortunately, once I changed the seed, the sparrows disappeared and the goldfinches and house finches can eat in peace. There are some chickadees, too, but they’re shy and don’t come out much when I’m outside.

This year has been exciting already, since I had a pair of quail in the yard. The female was looking for scattered seed below the feeders, while the male kept watch from the fence. This is only the second time I’ve ever seen quail in our yard – the other time was a few years ago. There are so many cats in our neighborhood (both pets and strays/ferals), that it’s a pretty dangerous place for them.

quail3

Quail on fence

But by far the most exciting thing was seeing a woodpecker on the feeder:

Woodpecker at the feeder

Now I’m getting excited for the start of hummingbird season.

 

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From Tent to Tee

I have the front and back done on Relax, AKA the Giant Pink Tent.

"Relax" pattern

The Zephyr yarn has a lovely drape, so it doesn’t look quite so much like a tent when being worn. (And remember, I went down a size from what was recommended for my bustsize.)

I still have the sleeves to add, but without them, it makes a pretty cute tee. Maybe I’ll make another one and just leave it as a short-sleeved top.

"Relax" pattern

"Relax" pattern

The neckline just has a simple rolled edging. The bottom hem was supposed to have a ribbing. I knit it, but it was way too loose. I should have gone down a couple of needle sizes. Rather than reknit it, though, I decided to just have a rolled hem instead. The top was already long enough, and adding the ribbing would have made it a little longer than I would have liked. So starting from my provisional cast-on, I joined the hem to work in the round and worked one purl round followed by three knit rounds and then bound off.

 

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In search of sleeves

The giant pink tent now has a front and a back.

But no sleeves.

"Relax" in progress

On the other hand, Shauna has sleeves, but no body.

Shauna sleeves

Cause yeah, that’s how I roll.

 

 

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Poppy it is.

I finally got out to my LYS to look at yarn for Holbrook. On Susan‘s suggestion, I decided to give Shibui Staccato a try.

Although it’s a solid, the silk/wool combination and the tight twist of the yarn give it a subtle sheen so that it doesn’t look flat. The silk will help give it nice drape, and of course it feels delightful. How can you go wrong with merino and silk?

There were a few colors I was considering, but I needed four skeins in the same dyelot, which helped me narrow the field. I also didn’t want to go with a really dark color, or anything too neutral, which eliminated a few other options. There was a very pretty blue that was tempting, but not in a color range that I usually wear, so I wouldn’t have much to wear it with.

The winner is “Poppy”. Not as orange as you might think – it’s almost more of a light terra cotta.

Shibui Staccato in 'poppy'

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Mystery Thyme

While waiting for the chance to visit my local yarn shops for an appropriate yarn for Holbrook, I’ve gone ahead and cast on for a shawl with the madeleinetosh yarn.

Mystery Thyme

After I use up the first skein, I’ll figure out what to do with the shawl edging. So for now, it’s a mystery. In madeleinetosh “thyme”, of course.

Project notes here.

 

 

 

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A plan.

I’ve decided against trying to use the madelinetosh yarn for the Holbrook shawl. I think it’s too risky with the sideways border.

But that leaves two problems:

The first is what else to do with the madtosh that won’t be an issue with the color changes. I’ve decided to make a half-circle shawl in garter stitch, finishing it with either a pleat or lace. The pleat will take a lot more yardage – probably as much as the body of the shawl, so I’ll only do that if the first skein gives me a large enough shawl. If I need to use part of the second skein to make the shawl bigger, then I’ll have to go with a lace border. First problem taken care of.

The second problem is what yarn to use for Holbrook. I’d prefer it to be solid or heathered, unless I can find a semi-solid yarn that would be reliably nearly-solid. Since I’ll need multiple skeins, though, there’s still always the risk of one skein being noticeably different from the next.

I’d prefer wool or a wool-silk blend. It can’t have alpaca since that makes my neck itch. I think the lace would look better with a smooth, plied yarn rather than anything fluffy or hairy, so a sock yarn would be nice. But on the other hand, it can’t be a really springy sock yarn that won’t hold the blocking.

Any yarn suggestions are welcome. If it’s something I can get locally, that’s even better, since I like to support my local shops when I can.

Thanks to those of you who’ve already given me some suggestions. I plan to check out the local stores next week.

 

 

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Conflicted

con•flict (kŏnˈflĭktˌ)
n.A state of open, often prolonged fighting; a battle or war.
n.A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash.
n. Psychology A psychic struggle, often unconscious, resulting from the opposition or simultaneous functioning of mutually exclusive impulses, desires, or tendencies.*

 

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

After seeing a lovely Holbrook Shawl in person, I was excited to start one right away, and began searching through my stash. I knew the pattern would look better with a solid yarn, but I really didn’t have anything in my stash in fingering weight that would work. The closest I could come was this madelinetosh tosh merino light, which is a semi-solid:

madelinetosh tosh merino light - Thyme

The skeins looked very well matched, and I figured the semi-solid would probably be OK. I wound one of the skeins and did a little swatch. A bit more variegation than I’d like, but not too bad. I figured it would work, and was chomping at the bit to start. But then I wound the second skein.

Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light

Can you tell from the photo? The cake on the left is definitely a little darker than the one on the right.

The darker skein is lighter in the center and gets darker as towards the outside of the cake – so if I knit with the lighter skein first, then started with the lighter end of the darker skein, it might transition OK. Or not. Since the border is knit on sideways, if the yarn suddenly gets darker, it could create a weird patch.

I definitely wouldn’t want to alternate skeins and have it look striped.

Le sigh.

I do have some laceweight yarn in solid red that I could use, but I really wanted to do this shawl in fingering weight.

Do I forge ahead with the madelinetosh and hope it turns out OK? Use my laceweight? Buy more yarn, despite having overflowing stash? And if so, what to buy that’s truly solid? I do have some sportweight yarn in solid dark brown and solid natural (light beige), but they’re both in a rustic wool that I’m not sure I’d love as a shawl.

I feel much too conflicted.

I guess I’ll have to just make eat cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

*Definitions from Wordnik

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Violets and more Violets

I’ve been viciously yanking out handfuls of violets from my front planting bed. Not that I dislike violets, but they’re taking over and choking out some of my other plants. When they first started showing up, I thought they made lovely addition to the garden, so I let them multiply. Now I’m seeing the error of my ways. Did you know that violets not only spread by their root system, but also explosively shoot seeds for several feet around them? Most references say 3 to 4 feet, but some say they can even shoot up to 9 or 10 feet.

I was tempted to leave them until after the spring blooms died down, but by then the other perennial foliage will have grown enough that they’d be much harder to pull. So sadly, I’m disposing of them in the prime of their beauty.

But fear not, violet lovers. I have left the violets alone on the side yard, where they’re welcome to fill up all the space they want. And they do. In two colors.

Sweet violets

My daffodils are in full swing, and the very early species tulips have opened.

Daffodils

I think it’s time to go gather some flowers for vases. I think I even have a tiny vase to hold some of those violets.

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