Fair round-up

Some of you may have been wondering... how did I do at this year's fair?

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I entered 8 pieces of knitting and got 4 ribbons. A 50% return rate seems pretty good for my very first fair. Two third place ribbons, two first place ribbons.

There were some surprises. My Advent Calendar did not get disqualified from the Christmas stocking category despite being not actually a Christmas stocking - in fact, it won a first place ribbon. My Cecelia blanket won nothing, and the baby blankets that did place were all terrible looking and made out of Red Heart (sigh). My double-knitted Penn State colored pot holder only won a third-place ribbon, and of course I didn't think the first and second place ribbon winners deserved it considering that very little technique was involved. My Unleashed mittens actually won a ribbon, which was shocking, considering they weren't very well made (all me, the pattern is great). And my cute little alligator scarf? Nothing! And it wasn't even displayed correctly. Huh?

I learned some things I can take with me into next year's fair. Next year I'll likely be entering a very large square shawl full of lace and beads and many colors and if it doesn't take a best in show, I'm going to be sorely disappointed.

We're going to the fair!

Fair season is upon us! (well, it's been upon us. It's called "summer.")

If you live in a rural or rural-ish area, you'll know what I'm talking about - state fair, county fair, local fair, fireman's carnival, farm show, 4-H fair... whatever you call it, they all boil down to roughly the same sort of thing. Food, fun, and livestock.

And around here, competition.

Bakers get baking, sewers get sewing, stitchers get stitching, and artists get... arting. This year I decided to take the plunge and submit some knitting to the fair to be judged. Below are some previews of what I'll be submitting to the fair this year, and once it's all said and done, I'll check back in and let you know how I did!

Category: Adult hat, knitted, needles. I made this for my husband last winter; it needs to be depilled and defuzzed.

Category: Scarf, to wear, knitted, needles. I made this as part of the Paradise Fibers yarn club last year, from a Mountain Colors mini-skein kit. Mountain Colors loved it so much that they stole my picture and put it on their Facebook page with no attribution. *eep*

Category: Pot holder. I made this at Knitters' Day Out last year as part of a Double Knitting class with Heather Zoppetti. I love double knitting, but boy is it a lot of work.

 The front.

The front.

 See how the colors are reversed on the back? That's what happens with double knitting.

See how the colors are reversed on the back? That's what happens with double knitting.

Category: Small hanging, tree ornaments, etc. I have a million of these but I'm guessing I have to pick just one to be judged. Decisions, decisions.

Category: Stole/shawl, knitted. My picture does not do Stephen West justice.

Category: Mittens/gloves, adult, knitted. I just finished these, as part of Michelle Hunter's KnitPurlHunter KAL, sponsored by Skacel. These KALs are great and I plan to do her next one as well.

Category: Afghan, baby, knitted. You may remember I wrote about this one before...

Category: Christmas stocking, needlework. I might be breaking the rules with this one a bit. It's actually 24 tiny Christmas stockings, intended for use as an Advent Calendar, complete with their own storage bag. We'll just have to see if I get disqualified....

Wish me luck!

Rules are made to be broken #1

"Rules are made to be broken" is an ongoing series of posts where I describe how I break different so-called "rules" in various areas of my life, why I choose to do so, and why maybe you should, too.

Rule #1 is about knitting.

"You should always use the yarn that is recommended in the pattern for the best results."

This is a rule designed to get you to buy a specific yarn. Yes, you already knew that. But seriously.

It is important when choosing a yarn for a project that you take into account the weight of the yarn, the fiber characteristics, the way the yarn was milled or spun, and a few other factors besides just "Oooh, this is blue and it's pretty!" (I will write more about these factors in a future "Rules" post.)

But in general, yes: you can make any pattern with any yarn.

There might be math involved. There might be tears involved. You won't get an item that looks exactly like the one in the picture (but trust me, that won't happen regardless). But use yarn you love and you'll get something fun and exciting and uniquely you.

I rarely use the yarn that a pattern calls for, but here are just a few examples of me throwing caution to the wind and getting (what I think are) great results:

The above pattern called for fingering weight yarn. I used a bulky. To this day, still my mother's favorite shawl.

This is, so far, the nicest sweater I've ever made. It also happened to be the first sweater I ever finished (a top-down raglan with an all-over lace pattern in fingering weight yarn? sure. no problem). The yarn called for is 100% merino. I used a silk blend. People will tell you you can't use silk for sweaters. People are wrong - you can do anything you want so long as you're fully aware of what you're doing. I love this sweater.

This pattern was designed for one solid color of a DK weight yarn. I used five different colors (and I think the yarn was a worsted weight). Trust me, this alligator is much more stylish.

"But the pattern called for a 100% wool yarn!" Yes, that's nice. The recipient of this hat was undergoing chemotherapy, and I've heard bamboo is much softer and nice against the skin. The recipient tells me I'm right. I think the switch was worth it.

With a little bit of practice, you can quickly discover that you, too, can make whatever you want out of whatever you want. Go wild. Have fun.

After all, rules are made to be broken.

Sunny Seattle

I was on vacation all last week in Seattle. I had a wonderful time and I plan to tell you all about it. But it is taking longer than I thought it would to get back in the swing of things, catch up on all the work I missed, and still find time to get the 200+ pictures off of my ancient non-smartphone and onto my even more ancient non-smart laptop.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my knitting riding a ferry:

That's clue 1 of the Shetland Trader Mystery KAL, riding the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island (home of Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, which was amazing!).

More later. Stay tuned.

FO: Cecelia blanket

Finished object parade!

It started like this:

And it ended like this:

(Of course there's a picture of my dog's hind end in that picture. Such is life with pets.)

This is the Cecelia blanket, completed as part of a KAL in the Berroco Lovers Ravelry Group. I knit it out of the recommended yarn (something I don't do often), which is Berroco Comfort Chunky in the Seedling colorway. My poor tablet has a difficult time photographing greens, so this picture is quite washed out - the green is much more vibrant, as seen in the swatch photo from Webs (where I purchased the yarn):

The pattern was great - well-written, easy to follow, something an adventurous beginner could surely tackle. The Berroco blog had some lovely videos to help along the way.

This is going to be a baby blanket, and it's not intended for any baby in particular right now. Whoever in my life next announces that they're pregnant will get it! Knit in a thinner yarn this pattern could easily make a circular shawl that would be quite fetching.

Now on to the next project....

What's on deck for the summer

Here's a look at some materials I've been gathering in preparation for some upcoming KALs (Knit-alongs). In fact, they're all MKALs (Mystery Knit-alongs), where the pattern is released one piece at a time over the course of several weeks. I am a big sucker for an MKAL. I think they help me pace my knitting better - each week I have a manageable chunk to tackle. But I'm also notorious for starting KALs and finishing them months and years later, so we'll see how these go.

The first one starts June 1. It's the Shetland Trader Mystery KAL. I'm planning to make the largest size for this shawl that is "less on the lacey side and more texture driven with clean lines." I figure if I make it really large it will be more suitable to a number of different uses, since I have no idea what I'm going to do with it yet - I might keep it, give it away as a Christmas present, donate it somewhere, or repurpose it as some sort of home decor. I'm aiming for a gradient sort of look - the red on the right hand side is actually a bit darker, with streaks of black in it, than the photo shows. And although I usually see gradients go from light to dark, as I've arranged them here, I'll likely start knitting from the right side and go from dark to light. The yarns, from left to right, are Mint Rain Hand Dyed Soft Sock in the Thank You Red colorway, HaldeCraft Moon (a BFL/nylon blend) in the Cranberries colorway, and Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the Tart colorway.

The next is the Kelbourne Woolens Hydrangea MKAL 2015. I'll be using The Fibre Company Meadow in the Pokeweed colorway, which is just a shade more purple than my picture shows. (I am not the best photographer by any means, and I use my tablet because it's convenient instead of my actual digital camera.) This will be another shawl, and I'm hoping I'll like the design enough to keep this one, because the yarn and the color are gorgeous.

There are two more MKALs I am preparing for that both start July 1. The first is the Knit Purl Hunter July MKAL, for which I'll be using these lovelies:

that I bought at this year's Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. It's a wool/alpaca blend from Aker LLC and I'm a sucker for this sort of barber-pole style. I have done quite a few of Michelle's KALs, and I love that there are prizes. Her patterns are so well-written and advanced techniques are always explained clearly and usually have accompanying video. These are a great place for an adventurous beginner to dive right in. The July KAL will be a pair of convertible mittens, which is something I've never made before. Color me intrigued. Again, I'm hoping I can keep these, but since I'm not using the recommended yarn, and I'm too lazy to do a gauge swatch for such a small project, we'll see what size they end up being.

The final one I'm going to write about today is the Yarn Fairy's in My Garden Mystery KAL by designer Donna Druchunas. I first heard about Donna Druchunas when someone on Twitter linked me to her PubSlush campaign - I immediately backed her PubSlush campaign and then went out and also bought her entire Stories in Stitches collection. I love her aesthetic. This will be an enormous shawl (it calls for 2205 yards of fingering weight yarn!) but luckily I have an enormous stash in my house to pull from. These yarns in order from left to right are: Araucania Huasco in a pale, pale green/grey colorway; a Black Trillium merino blend in the Cedar Forest colorway; Dyeabolical Alter Ego; HaldeCraft Marion (it has cashmere in it!) in the Yggdrasil colorway; and a Cloudlover merino/nylon sock blend in the Faunalia colorway. Nice pale greens into deeper greens/browns - very nature-y, I think. I've never been turned off by variegated yarns and I think they work in everything (including lace, which most people will tell you is a no-no... but they're wrong), so I have high hopes for this color combo.

As always, you can keep up-to-date on my progress on Ravelry and I hope to do some more updates here as well. Happy knitting!