Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lemonade, Figuratively Speaking

I always find it difficult to begin a blog post these days without apologizing or explaining why I have been away for so long.  In truth I don't enjoy being away for so long for a number of reasons.  The first is that I feel like I'm abandoning you guys.  Today's post is prompted by a simple message I received on Ravelry.  To paraphrase, it said "I read your blog", which was enough to make me feel guilty enough to update it.

The second reason I don't like blogging so infrequently is that I feel like there's no flow between posts.  I often knit quickly enough that if too much time lapses between posts, I'll be showing you entirely different projects in each one.  Something I personally like about other blogs is seeing the process of how something is created, which can't be achieved here unless I blog more often.  Or knit more slowly. And I'd rather not knit more slowly.

Blogging at the rate that I do also causes me to omit a great deal of information, ideas, and thoughts that I would love to share with you guys.  Believe it or not, there's usually something I want to share here on a near daily basis, but by the time I sit down to write a post, I have forgotten half of it, 40% seems obsolete, 5% is so belated that I don't bother sharing it, and the rest I try to cram into a single post, causing it all to be rather truncated and lacking my forgotten (rare) insights and even more rare witty remarks.  Case in point?  Alpaca shearing.  Alpaca shearing at the farm was several weeks ago now and I never told you about it.  At the time it was because I was tired after the 16 hours on the farm and I was quite emotionally distraught due to an incident near the end of shearing day and now it seems so long ago that I find myself thinking, "why bother?"  So instead, here's a picture of me at the shearing.  Imagine an entire post to go along with it, most of which would talk about how much fun I had.  We sheared 89 alpacas and 1 llama that day and I got the best job in that I, along with Tamara (next to me in the photo) got to sort the fleece as it came off the animal.  This means I got to roll around in touch the fleece of almost every single animal on the farm.  I missed a few due to the fact that I was forced to eat lunch.  It also means I got spit on and peed on all day long, but does it look like I cared?  I learned so much that day.

Since my last post, I've also celebrated the marriage of one of my very best friends (I played the bagpipes at her wedding), quit my job, and moved into a new house.  Because I like to lay blame on factors outside of my control, I'm going to say that part of the reason I haven't been blogging is because I, once again, do not have internet access at my new place.  Why?  Because I'm cheap and can't afford it.

So there you have it.  If you're annoyed by my less-than-frequent blog posts (and I know some of you are as I have seen reviews of my blog expressing such an opinion around the internet), be assured that I am right there with you.  As my brother and I say, "you can't do much about lemonade."  And no, that phrase doesn't make any more sense to us than it does to you, but I'm using it nonetheless.  It started when we were having lunch at a restaurant and there was a mix-up between raspberry lemonade and regular lemonade and blah blah blah Minnesota nice it wasn't worth making a fuss about... essentially it means, to us anyway, something like "it is what it is" or "just go with the flow."  (Full disclosure: the proper response to "you can't do much about lemonade" is "that's just what they say.")

Wow, I got way off track.  This is a knitting blog, isn't it?  Look here, I finished a shawl.

It's obviously not blocked yet, but I have a modicum of hope that once it is, it will look somewhat beautiful.  I see that I haven't talked about this shawl in two months, so as a refresher, the pattern is the Mountain Peaks Shawl by Miriam Felton and I'm using some of my handspun superwash BFL, the fiber for which was gifted to me by Anne over at Wooly Wonka Fibers.  I find this shawl particularly interesting because when indoors, the color (to my eyes) tends to read as some sort of light brown/beige/khaki/I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to color.  Only when the shawl is outside in natural light can you see those different colors, particularly the blue.  In fact, I didn't even notice how cool the edging looked until I took it outside to take a picture today.  I'm excited to block it now.

Because I seem to have a knack for tossing projects by the wayside as soon as I reach the finishing stage (and I have a vest, a sweater, this shawl, a pair of mittens, and a pair of fingerless gloves to prove this theory), I have already moved on to my next project.  This time it's a thick, warm sweater, because I can think of nothing more appropriate or comfortable to work on in this 90 degree heat than a sweater that will most likely be too warm for 362 days out of the year.

I have both sleeves finished, which I am considering rather exceptional considering I have only been working on this project for three days (and one of them was wedding day).  The pattern is Hlekkur by Védís Jónsdóttir and is my first venture into Icelandic patterns.  I've wanted an Icelandic sweater ever since I saw the first photo in this post by Franklin Habit (and yes, I did just scroll through the past two years of his blog entries to find it).  At one point I was just going to reproduce the one in that picture, but decided on a different pattern instead.  (As an aside, if you do want the sweater in that picture, it's not necessary to make up your own pattern for it.  It's right here.  Or at least the information about the pattern is.  I don't know how you would actually get your hands on it.)

Back to Hlekkur.  I liked the pattern both because of how well the white stood out from the background and because it inspired in me the idea that an Icelandic sweater doesn't need to be a pullover.  It can have a zipper if I want it to, and I want it to.  The only difference is that when I'm done knitting a pullover, I will cut it open.  Super simple.  The pattern isn't available on Ravelry, but you can find it over on Patternfish.  (It's free to make an account.)  Thanks go to Mel for finding a source for this pattern.  He also informed me that Hlekkur means "link", as in a part of a chain.  This makes sense considering the patterning around the yoke.

A note about yarn choice:

I think it's important to understand the qualities of a particular yarn or fiber when choosing the yarn for a project.  I am by no means an expert when it comes to Icelandic sweaters, but I do know that they are most often made with Lopi yarn.  From my understanding, this is a yarn spun from Icelandic sheep - makes sense.  Icelandic sheep have a double coat, meaning that there is a longer, coarser outer layer and a shorter, softer undercoat.  Lopi yarn contains both fibers spun together to create a singles yarn.  The long, coarse fibers provide strength against abrasion while the shorter fibers provide warmth and a bit of softness.  Take this knowledge of the fibers and combine it with the fact that Iceland is cold and the sheep come in a variety of natural colors and it isn't hard to imagine how the first colorwork yoke came into being in Iceland.  Colorwork shows off the beautiful array of natural shades and provides an extra layer of warmth against the bitter chills of winter.

All that being said, I am not using Lopi to knit my sweater.  I am using Cascade Soft Spun.  It is similar to the yarn called for in the pattern in that they are both loosely spun singles and I can get gauge with the Cascade yarn.  One big difference is that Peruvian Highland sheep (which provide the wool for the yarn I am using) is not a double-coated breed and therefore my yarn does not have coarse guard hairs that will stand up well to wear and tear.  What does this mean?  My sweater will not last as long as a traditional Lopapeysa.  My sweater will also most likely start pilling the minute I put it on, though a somewhat denser gauge may have the effect of staving this off a bit.  My sweater will also be softer, which is the tradeoff.  The important thing is that my yarn choice was a conscious, informed decision based on my understanding of the qualities of both the yarn called for in the pattern and the yarn I chose to substitute.  By knowing how each yarn behaves, I am able to predict the type of fabric that would result from knitting with them and decide which I prefer.  In this case I chose softness over longevity, even if it means my sweater won't be a true Lopapeysa.  You can't do much about lemonade.