Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Remember how I said I was in love with the color of Ene's Shawl?

And I’ve been doing a measly few rows each night for over a week? (torture)

Remember when I was knitting Charlotte, and I said I didn’t count the stitches in the rows, I just made sure that everything in the lace pattern lined up?

Well. Now I’ve finished the border and am on the lacey part, the part that (according to sources) is “fun” and “goes fast”. After that gigantical border, I’m almost 1/3 done with it and I love the color and I’m just dying-dying-dying to block it and see what it looks like.

And I reach the end of a row, and am two stitches off, and I examine it, and I examine it, and I can't figure out where I went wrong. I decide to count the entire number of stitches.

And then I notice that something seems kind of funny. And then I realize that it is so, so, so, very NOT FUNNY.

My lace pattern is lining up, that doesn't seem to be the problem. The problem is, there is a point in the center, the bottom point of the triangle, with 12 scallops on either side, and mine has 11 scallops on one side, and 13 on the other.

Because I know you can’t see the problem while it is scrunched on the needles, I drew you a visual aid (hey, it’s better than crying). The figure on the top would be Ene’s scarf. The figure on the bottom would be my shawl, or “Ene’s Scalene Triangle”.

All the laddering-down in the universe couldn’t fix this thing.

It’s toast.

(Jodee and Carla, I know you are laughing your a**es off right now. Wipe those smirks off your face and bring chocolate. Forget that. Bring gin.)

Olympic Wrap-Up

Final Olympic challenge sweater pictures and notes.

The Cozy Cardigan, designed by Kathy Zimmerman, Vogue Winter 05-06. Rowan Magpie, nicely aged in stash, knit slightly looser than recommended gauge and blocked out to 15 st/4", 8 skeins.

Here is a better picture of the stitch pattern:

I was wondering if anyone would notice that I changed the buttons. Yes, I did change the buttons at the last minute. I don't like these as much as the original ones that I picked out (remember I only had six of those--and I needed eight), but after all that knitting, I wasn't going to let a last-minute-button-debacle keep me from finishing. To make a long story short, my goal in the beginning was to do this without injury and without making my family crazy, and driving an hour away for two buttons on Saturday would have bordered on the making-my-family-crazy part.

Thank you all for your moral support and for cheering me on! That was the best part, for me. Remember how I was worried in the beginning about the excessive amount of stockinette at the sides and shoulders? And you all reassured me? Well, it did turn out to be just fine, just like you said. See:

So, what did I learn from this experience?

1. I can make a freakin sweater in two weeks! (I did suprise myself a little).

2. I don't enjoy making a sweater in two weeks!

3. It is much easier to keep one project contained and organized than it is it to keep track of all the needles, patterns, and extra yarn for five or six things. I am constantly frustrated because I can't find things. With this sweater, I was very careful to keep my pattern, my extra yarn, my smaller needles for the ribbing all in one bin, so as not to lose any precious time. Hmmmm: must meditate on the possibilities of being more organized, with all my projects, (duh!)

4. I really like the variety of having several things going at once. And I like my system of having different projects to work on in different situations. I did NOT enjoy knitting this while watching 24, Survivor, and ice dancing scandals. There was quite a lot of this going on:

I had to ladder down to fix dozens of cables, those line thingies in the pattern, and worst of all: bobbles. This sweater must have had a hundred frickin bobbles. I forgot them right and left. And you can't ladder down to fix a bobble, because you won't have enough yarn to add it in. You must rip back. Fortunately, I never went more than six rows before I realized I forgot one. Examining your knitting every inch or so is key, in a pattern like this.

Here was the worst one:

You can't really tell it in the picture, but I was binding off. Binding off, on my last piece, when I saw that I missed that last bobble there, at the top left in the photo. Argh.

This pattern was very well written and I enjoyed it. The only thing I changed, and it is very minor, is I made the waist shaping less extreme than the pattern. The pattern called for seven decreases from the hip up to the waist, and I only did four. Seven decreases x four sides = 28 decreases, at 15 st/4 inches, is about 7.5 inches decreased at the waist. That seemed like a lot to me. Some of my recent sweaters, in worsted weight with waist shaping, have had 4 decreases per side which totals overall about 4" decreased from waist to hip. That's worked for me, so that's what I used here. Just FYI.

I seem to have a backlog of small FOs. A few accessories I made before the Olympics that I didn't get a chance to blog about, and a few UFOs I've gotten out and finished up. My goal is to have one small post each day for the next several days to show these. Ciao!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Olympic Gold

This afternoon a few of us Olympians (love saying that) gathered at my friend Carla's house for knitting, discussion of the Olympic games highlights/lowlights/scandals, and of course, show and tell of our Olympic victories!

Here is our hostess Carla, modeling her brand new funnel neck sweater of Thaki New Tweed. Beautiful color. I want it.

Jodee made a Charlotte's Web! Woot!

Lydia just whipped out this smashing Dale of Norway throw.

I have been drooling over the colorwork going on during the last two weeks and after seeing Lydia's throw, I find myself in a trance. Must make Dale of Norway..... Must make Dale of Norway.....

Unfortunately, after taking everyone else's picture, I forgot to get mine until later when it was dark. Final picture and notes on my sweater tomorrow. (And thanks for liking my label yesterday--I thought it might be kind of dorky.) (But that's never stopped me before.)

Thank you Carla, for a great wrap-up party!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sneak Preview

Olympic gold.

Photos tomorrow, on the podium.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Olympic Sweater Progress, Plus A Couple of Notes, Plus Some Other Stuff

I didn't show you the second sleeve, because it looked pretty much like the first.

Ok, here's proof I have two sleeves:

Then I started seaming. I love it when the designer pays attention to things like the ribbing matching up after seaming, so I always check for that in the pattern when I start, and if it isn't going to match up, I change it so it will (in this case, the pattern had nice attention to detail and I didn't change anything.)

For instance, if you have a 2x2 rib, you will need both side seams to start (or end) with two knit stitches, when you take one of each of those into the side seam (picture above), then you will end up with 2 knits total, so the ribbing will be continuous all the way around.

Then I sewed the shoulder seams and knit the shawl collar:

I usually block my pieces before I sew them together, as I did with this sweater. It makes them nice and flat and easy to sew together, plus it allows the yarn to relax and grow like wool usually does when you wash it. In this case, it grew a lot. My swatch went from 16 stitches/ 4" to 15 stitches/4". On a 48" sweater, that means it would grow almost 4 inches all the way around. This is why I always wash my swatches!

Ok, so why I'm telling you this, is that the body of the sweater has been blocked and "relaxed", but the collar has been knit on, and is not relaxed. Sometimes I am tempted to skip the next step, to be done. But it is important that I either re-block the entire sweater, or at least the collar part. In the interest of time, this time I just made the collar portion wet and left the rest dry.

Here is the collar before blocking (see how the ribbing is pulling the bottom up, and the collar looks small and tight):

And here it is, after:

Meanwhile, I am starting to see the pattern emerge on Ene's scarf. It looks black in this picture, but the color is really a heathery blue. It is gorgeous and I'll show that to you soon.

Also, getting geared up to return to my pre-Olympic multiple project ways, I was rummaging through the bin and discovered a few things that I was intending to use for accessories this fall/winter.

I am hoping to use my last few days of Olympic knitting to crank out a couple of small things I really wanted to make this year.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sleevio Due (That's Italian)

Actually, I made up the "sleevio" part. I don't know what the Italian word for sleeve is.

I hesitated about whether or not to confess about the Ene's. Am I cracking under pressure? Could I go over to the dark side?


But I am so close.

And I have realized something important.

If I finish a wool sweater this weekend, I will single-handedly guarantee the Midwest an early spring, with 60 degree temps for the rest of February and March. (This would be the same power by which I ended our drought last fall when I had my garage sale.)

And since all I have to show today is a boring second sleeve, how about a bonus picture. Here's the Irish Hiking Scarf that I finished before the Olympics to give to our Kindergarden teacher for Valentine's day (I hereby declare Valentine's Day the Crafter's Late Christmas).

Very nice pattern. Three skeins Classic Elite Inca Alpaca. Super soft. And his teacher called me that night to thank me personally! I was so happy. I think she liked it!

Sleeve Numero Uno

Anybody sick of seeing this yet?

How about a little of this?

(Ene's Scarf) (Shhhhhh)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Day Seven? Eight? I've Lost Track

I'm still on schedule, but I've definitely lost my pep.

That's the back--almost finished, and the two fronts, one blocked, one not. (The toys are there to hold down the curling edges.)

True confession: on day five I cracked. I cast on a new project. Just a cast on, just a minor indiscretion. Here it is, cloaked in mystery:

That's 375 stitches crammed on that needle, to give you a big hint. I haven't touched it since, and it is taunting me from the sidelines.

Now to distract us, let's talk about buttons.

I am lucky to have a wide range of button sources near me. Only one of which I want to drag three kids to, that would be Em's Button Emporium:

(Keep in mind, I have been collecting for 20 years.)

If I have no luck there, I also have 2 yarn shops and a Joann's Superstore within 10 minutes.

Yesterday I found an exact match for this smokey aqua color:

They had 6, and the pattern calls for 7, but they were so perfect I bought them anyway. I will either do 6 or run around to one of the other 3 Joann's within an hour of me to find another card.

Here are a few tips for choosing buttons that I learned in the garment industry:

-An odd number is more pleasing to the eye.

-If you can't find an exact match, bigger is usually better than smaller, darker better than lighter, duller better than brighter.

-Sometimes a slightly off shade of button will make the garment look expensive.

-Always look at the back side of the buttons, sometimes they will be a slightly different color, or nicer texture.

I use that last tip most often. I probably use the "wrong" side of buttons more often that the "right" side. They often look a little fresher or more ususual. Above you can see the 2 top buttons are the right side and the two flat buttons on the bottom are the wrong side. I think I'll use the wrong side on this sweater, but I'll make a final decision after I knit the button band.

How is everyone else's Olympic knitting coming along?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Day Four: On Schedule

Yesterday (day three) I knit about a day-and-a-half's worth (90 gms)(I love my scale), and it felt good. Today however, I fell behind, as I've only knit a couple of rows, and it's almost 8pm.

Oh, the highs and lows of the Olympic sport.

Here is my day three knitting (one of the side fronts) blocking this morning:

Would anyone care to have a technical discussion of this sweater? I do! I do! I'm a total knitting geek today, don't say I didn't warn you.

Okay. Here's a major lesson I have learned already.

I've come across this issue before, but never this glaringly obvious. I almost always knit a size large or XL. The samples are (as far as I can tell--except maybe in Knitty) always knit in a size small or medium. The way that sweaters are "graded" or sized-up is pretty much this: keep the pattern the same, and add stockinette on the sides, beyond the pattern. This can lead to a bunch of empty space on the sides, which, depending on how much there is, and how busy the cable pattern is in the first place, can either look fine or look terrible.

As you look at the side front above, I think it will look ok. Not necessarily fine, but not terrible either. Most of the sides are covered up by arms, anyway. Where it will look the worst is up at the shoulder, where there will be about an inch of blank space before you get to the sleeve. I think it will be ok. I am not so much of a perfectionist that I want to rip out the entire side front (and then, it wouldn't match up with the back at the shoulders, so I'd have to redo the back too). But if I had charted out beforehand, and I'm talking, a chart of the entire side front, which would have taken me an hour or so, but would certainly be do-able, then I would have seen this situation. I could have shifted the entire pattern to the right by 2-4 stitches, leaving a couple more stitches between the button band and the pattern, which would have been fine, and the whole sweater would have looked more balanced.

See how it looks on the model? The whole front is covered with pattern. Mine won't look quite that nice. It would really have been a good idea to have charted the whole dang thing out.

And speaking of the model, see how nonchalant she looks? Like that nice squiggley cable just matched up with the neck shaping like magic? (See black arrow.) That doesn't happen by magic, and they don't warn you about that in the pattern. I was a knitting machine, crusing along and keeping track of the armhole shaping and the neck shaping at the same time, when my cable started traveling up to the left, as my neck shaping was gracefully leaning right.

Alarm bells! This is not what our lovely model is displaying. She is displaying a curve to the cable that matches up with the neck shaping. I had to rip back several rows to re-start the shaping, and not quite to the point that they did in the photo, or it would have been too low a neckline on me.

Here is what mine looks like, do you think it will work? (Is anybody still reading this?) Be honest. About the sweater, not about the reading.

I think I will do a sleeve next, and do a sew-as-you-go maneuver. I don't usually do this blocking-as-you-go either, but it is keeping me motivated.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Go Team Chicago!

Thanks Franklin, for the button!

This is what I am making for the Harlot's Olympic Games:

From Vogue Knitting, Winter 06, pattern #12.

I couldn't really take on a challenge that would require me to knit more than I already do, since I already knit as much as the law (family) will allow. I didn't want to do a technical challenge, since I knit so much around the kids, and didn't want to relegate my Olympic knitting to nights only, like I did with the Charlotte's Web Shawl.

So I decided that my challenge would be to stick to one and only one thing. Since I like to have lots of things going on at one time, this is a challenge. Especially with a cable sweater, I usually get bored and put it down about 1/2 way through.

I will need to knit about 100 yards/60 gms (remember I have my new scale!) per day to get this finished, which is a slight challenge, but I can do it, as long as I don't get distracted.

I'm using a rich aqua Rowan Magpie, well aged in the stash, which makes me happy. I'm knitting it a little looser than the gauge recommended, and it is nice and drapey. But it did take quite a bit of swatching and washing to get it right for the sweater, since it grows quite a bit in washing.

To throw a wrench into things, I have 2 different dyelots. If you squint, you can see that the 2 swatches on the bottom right are a little more yellow than the large one on the left. It's hard to tell in the ball, easier knit up. And I had lost 3 of the ball bands over the years, so I had to swatch to label the different dyelots. I still have one I can't figure out.

I hope to use the smaller lot for the sleeves, the larger lot for the fronts and back, and hope that I have enough left over that I don't have to use the mystery ball!

We kicked off the Olympic watching on Saturday afternoon with a party complete with Olympic cake:

How about a close up of that cake?! Those are the Olympic rings, in case you couldn't guess. We replaced the black ring with orange, (because who wants to eat black fruit?!)

The knitting started Friday night. I started on the back. Here it is after 2 days/200 yards/120 grams.

I'm blocking the partial back. I wanted to check my gauge, check to see if the length would grow (I neglected to record that on my swatches) and see if my ugly duckling cables would turn into beautiful swan. So far, so good.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Charlotte's Web, Finished

I LOVED this project. Charlotte's Web Shawl, five skeins Koigu. Three of which, I have enough left over to start another shawl. After the Olympics.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Charlotte Blocking

As luck would have it, last week I was strolling the internet for some shawl pictures, and I came across the Harlot's instuctions for blocking lace. Great timing.

This is my side of the bed, so I hope it dries by tonight! Those aren't garish stripey sheets, those are our beach towels. The water turned slightly pink when I gave the shawl her bath, and I didn't want to leave a large pink lacy imprint on my sheets.

It is a little smaller than the dimensions given in the directions, and I think it would have stretched more if my bind off had been a little looser. (When they say to bind off loosely, seriously, they mean LOOSELY.)

But I compared it to the two other shawls I have, and I think I will like it this way. I don't need another huge shawl.

Here you can see the yarn I sewed through the edge stitches, as per Stephanie's instructions. It worked well.

And now for something completely different.

Last week, while I was knitting Charlotte and making mistakes, I decided I needed a mindless knitting project to pick up during the day. I'll show you a peek now, and describe them in greater detail later:

The Irish Hiking Scarf, from Hello Yarn. Classic Elite Inca Alpaca. For my son's kindergarden teacher. Great pattern, easy knit, this would be great pattern for someone who wanted to learn cables.

Retro Prep, from Interweave Knits Fall 02. Girl! Retro Prep and Charlotte's Web in the same post?!? What is this, 2003?!?

I have never claimed to be on the cutting edge.

This is some yarn that I received in trade with Melody last week (she was drunk, I took advantage), that I loved so much I just had to use immediately. It's Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed. I have modified the pattern to use heavy worsted instead of DK.

Last week Diane asked if I was a continental knitter. I get asked this a lot, in conjunction with--"how do you knit so fast?"--so I thought I'd answer it here.

Yes, I knit continental style. (I hold the yarn in my left hand, and I scoop the yarn off my left index finger rather than wrapping the yarn with my right hand.) Most people think this is a faster way of knitting, although I have seen some fast wrappers, faster than me.

But I do knit decently fast. Most knitting instructions call for four motions, stick the needle in, wrap it, pull it through, and off the needle. Most people get this down to about 3 motions, combining the pull through and off the needle. I think I have it down to about 2 motions, combining the scoop, pull through, and off in one feel swoop. Sorry if this is getting too technical.

I think there is a little more to it than that, though.

First of all, I knit a lot. I knit a little bit in the morning, sitting at the table as the kids are eating breakfast. I try to pick it up sometimes during the day, and I usually knit a bit while in the car at kindergarden pickup. Since my kids are little, I don't have all the running around after dinner, because we don't have a lot of afterschool activities yet. The kids go to bed by 7:30, and I do about a 1/2 hour of clean up and laundry, and then I sit and knit. Sometimes quilt, if I have a deadline, but for the past couple of years I have been too tired to do anything but knit.

So, even if I don't get knitting in during the day, I almost always do 2-3 hours at night.

Secondly, I have space around the house to leave knitting projects, the kitchen counter, the fireplace mantle, the car. I have bags with each project, the yarn, needles, instructions. I pick up and do a few rows here and there whenever I can.

Which brings me to the last and most important thing: I have several projects going at once. Usually as many as six. Some people seem to think that having a lot of projects is frivolous, but I think it's smart. I always have something in a mindless stockinette stage that I can pick up at a moments notice and work on. This is probably how I got so many socks done last year (27) because I always have a sock in the car, and usually another in the house.

I don't get too frustrated if I get stumped with one project, because I have something else to pick up and wait until I can spend the quiet time and energy on the problem.

Some of this stuff seems like such common sense, that it seems silly to write it down. But I someone finds something in there that's useful.