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October 31, 2005

Rambling

I have been thinking lately about the phenomenon of the upscale knitter - that is, he or she who embodies American knitting's century-long shift from the only practical way of outfitting a family with warm winter underclothes to a luxury parlor art indulged in more often by those with disposable income and idle time than those without.

I'm a practically penniless writer, myself (lacking only the garret room and the consumptive lover), but I can't help but smile a little at the irony of indulging my champagne-and-cashmere tastes in order to reinvent as a pastime what has historically been a chore - Marie Antoinette playing at milkmaid.

Don't worry - this isn't turning into a fiber fascist's manifesto - I knit for the simple pleasure of it; because I think making something that pleases the eye and hands is worth time and effort; because I have an unconquerable inability to sit still; because I can't bear to step into a mall come Christmas. The holier-than-thou who sniff at "trendy" knitting can see me in hell - I'll be the one wearing the mohair legwarmers.

I do think, though, that it's important to be a thoughtful knitter, aware of the spirit of economy and thrift out of which today's expensive hobby grew. I'd like to learn to spin, and learn more about fiber production, but for now:

True scraps and leftovers that will become a bonny Fair Isle vest, in the best tradition of turning waste into something new and useful - exercising my portion of the innate and universal eye for beauty, gratefully.

October 30, 2005

Moving on up...

Welcome to the new site! It's very much in progress yet, but we're working on building it better, faster, stronger. Or something like that. I get confused sometimes.

Diablo

This morning, I put one corner of the exponentially-growing Fir Cone Shawl on scrap yarn and roughly pinned it out.

The motif in the inner border is a little triangle:

while the outer border has a geometric wave punctuated with little clover shapes.

It's all very nice and everything, but this shawl is killing me. I don't mean in your figurative hyperbole-for-the-sake-of-the-narration sense; I mean that the thought of starting each slightly longer row makes a little piece of my soul wither and die. If you look carefully in the upper left, you can see a cloven hoof in the ruched lace. Last night, the edging flew off the needles by itself, all the windows jammed shut, and the ambient temperature dropped by about 40 degrees. It burned the fingers of a passing nun. Telephones crackle with static when it's near. Babies burst into tears around it for no reason. I saw it turn a dog to stone. TO STONE, PEOPLE.

Dressed as a lamb, indeed.

October 28, 2005

Meme clickclick typetype

Yahaira and Mintyfresh have both sent some meme dust my way. I love reading these - I love seeing the variety of answers to one question, and I dig seeing knitters address topics they normally wouldn't go out of their way to discuss (needle talk, yarn talk, disaster talk...).

What is your all time favorite yarn to knit with?
Hmm. I'm going to cheat (gotten off to a great start, haven't we?) and say it depends on the type of project. I like doing a lot of different things (cabling, felting, lacemaking, Fair-Isle-ing), and have my go-to yarns for each of those (Cascade 220, Lamb's Pride Worsted, Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-Silk, and Dale Baby Ull, respectively). I do think very fondly, though, of one discontinued yarn - Rowan's True 4-ply Botany, a fingering-weight wool that came in vivid, deeply saturated colors, and knit up beautifully into highly-formed texture, or jewel-toned colorwork, or plain, smooth stockinette. It wasn't as buttery-soft as a Merino yarn, but the Botany wool definitely had its own brand of lush richness. I don't know why Rowan discontinued it - it was "replaced" with, I think, 4-ply Soft, which isn't the same thing at all.

Your favorite needles?
Circulars, for sure. Addi Turbos for cables, Addi Naturals for lace and Fair Isle. I keep meaning to try out the ebony and rosewood needles everybody talks about, too. I also have a mild obsession with glove needles - I can't help buying a set whenever I see them, although I only knit maybe three pairs of gloves a year. I love the 5" length - so comfortable. I own birch, bamboo, plastic, and metal sets, with the wee little aluminum ones being my favorite.

The worst thing you've ever knit?
Ahh, I wish I had a picture. It was this pretty thing:

Erin, from Rowan 30, a few years ago. As I knit, I learned that I 1) hated stringy, papery All Seasons Cotton; 2) hated reverse stockinette; and 3) hated myself when I seamed the sucker and then couldn't get my head through the turtleneck. I promptly frogged, and then hid the yarn so well that I just realized that I have no idea where it is.

Your most favorite knit pattern? (maybe you don't like wearing it...but it was the most fun to knit)
The Norwegian Stockings were a lot of fun; a cleverly written pattern with zen-like simple colorwork. Fabulous fireside knitting:

The macho aran was interesting to knit, too - my first from-scratch garment. It was immensely interesting to watch it develop as I went along.

Most valuable knitting technique?
Cabling without a cable needle, hands down. I love cables, but don't think I could bear the fiddliness of working with that short, crooked needle for more than a few stitches at a time.

Best knit book or magazine?
I like to look at Interweave Knits, and occasionally make a project out of it. Best one-subject knitting book would have to be Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting, for the incredible wealth of historical information she presents, the beautiful patterns, and the excellent guidance on developing your own garments.

Your favorite knit-a-long?
I thought the Union Square Market Pullover knitalong was really interesting. Lots of information and discussion.

Your favorite knitblogs?
I'll join the chorus, and say I love the blogs with beautiful photographs: Sweet Georgia and Streets and YOs, of course, but I also smile when I see that Knitfix, Whispering Pine, and Fig and Plum have been updated with my daily dose of yarn porn.

Your favorite knitwear designer?
Kate Gilbert. Teva Durham. Veronik Avery. Kim Hargreaves, though "interesting" usually moves over for "classic" with her stuff. Oodles of others.

The knit item you wear the most? (how about a picture of it!)
My cabled hoodie cardigan. Perfect for throwing on over a swimsuit once the sun goes down at the beach, perfect for fending off high whistling winds in the nosebleed seats of a ball park, perfect for layering in these chilly, sunny days. It sees a lot of wear:

Tag time
How about Kate at Knitlit, Laura, over at the almost brand-spanking-new Soapturtle, and Leah at Use Your Hands?

October 27, 2005

Tangents

Lulu asked for yardages on the Norwegian Stockings. I used about one and a half skeins of main color (brown), just about one of the main accent (blue) and a very teeny amount of the cuff accent (white), all with Dale Baby Ull (tangent - Yarndex rocks my world. End tangent), which has about 180 yards to the skein. I'm stumpier than Cotton Hill, so I did just two and a half repeats before decreasing, three and a half after, and (I think) four for the foot. The original pattern calls for eight skeins total of sportweight Dale Heilo, which has 109 yards per.

I'm of the opinion that the best way to learn traditional Fair Isle is with a small project in the round (tangent - I think these are a great beginner project, if you're already comfortable with socks. I hate it when people assign difficulty levels to projects or say that something is too hard for a beginner - all knitting is made of the same basic knit and purl stitches. These stockings have a simple, clear, repetitive pattern, and not much else going on to distract you other than standard sock shaping, and so are perfect for anyone who wants to learn something new and likes to tackle challenges head-on. End tanget), but I'd add that DPNs might not be the way to go. Though I know that's how people in Scotland knit for ages before we had fancy schmancy circulars, it's 1) damn hard to maintain an even tension around the corners, and 2) just another thing to deal with when you're already wrangling with different yarn colors. Magic Loop, or two circulars, is how I'm going to do these next time. All that said - good luck with learning FI! Here's an excellent crash course - not the way I do it (I usually knit with both colors in my left hand), but this is the traditional method, presented in a very effective way indeed. The Philosopher's Wool books are interesting, too, and Alice Starmore's Art of Fair Isle Knitting is absolutely invaluable.

On to the cono dell'abete - I did it. It took roughly the same length of time as it did to build the ark, ride out the deluge, and repopulate the world, and it wrang figurative blood, sweat, and tears out of me (okay, okay! Maybe there were one or two literal tears), but I did it. I picked up Six! Hundred! And! Twelve! dratted, golswinked, doggoned stitches.

Just starting, picking up easy selvedge stitches. Mood: Cocky, with a hint of relief.

1/3 through, and just realizing that, having put the "cut me" loop on the wrong side of the piece, the thread will have to be picked out on every stitch as opposed to simply unraveled. Mild expletives uttered. Mood: Hopeful, but fading fast.

Halfway through. Fingers aching from picking out never-ending thread. Wishing evil visitations upon any and all associated with lacemaking, ever, in the history of knitting. Mood: First-degree murderous.

It got done, though. And for what? This bulbous, floppy, unappealing thing? I'm always amazed by the waiting transformation...but really, it's useless till then (tangent - well, maybe I'll just keep my mouth shut. End tangent).

October 26, 2005

Waterloo

I finished the center square of the Fir Cone Square Shawl last night and pinned it out to get an idea of the size the finished thing will grow into before I pick up stitches for the borders and it becomes a shapeless bag on the needle.

I do have a problem, though - I cast on for this riding shotgun in a car, when no waste yarn was handy for the provisional caston required. Undaunted, I simply cast on with the project yarn, knit a few rows of stocking stitch, and left a long loop at the edge before starting in pattern. My reasoning was that later, I'd go back, cut the loop, unravel the stocking stitches, and be on my way. As it turns out, it's not going to be so simple - the sticky laceweight isn't exactly the best medium for clean "unzipped" stitches.

Oh, how the would-be mighty have fallen.

October 25, 2005

(Parenthetical)

Gleefully unrepentant, I'm merrily working away on the center square for the Fir Cone Shawl.

I haven't been able to find many finished shawls in blogland (though this one is beautiful), but could see from the image in the book that the blocked piece would be very large and very heavy - a mite large and a mite heavy for the 5'0" slip of a lady I'm planning to give it to. It would be a horse blanket on my wee little aunt.

Soo, I'm subbing Merino Oro (cobweb weight, I guess? ~350 yards to 25 grams...) and teeny-tiny 3.00mm (US whatever) needles for the sport weight yarn and 4.5mm (US7) yarn and needles called for. This will (hopefully) make a lighter, airier, smaller shawl. Judging from the way the square looks stretched out, I'd say we're right on track.

I'm up to the 9th of 12.5 repeats now - I got a lot done while watching Moulin Rouge last night (yeah, shut up. I only watched it to see Ewan McGregor's pretty, pretty, pretty face...and to hearken back to sweeter, simpler, better days, when blood was young and hearts were bold, and life was life and men were men, and when the total transformation from Ewan "My Boyfriend" McGregor to Ewan "Another Paycheck" McGregor was a few missteps away yet. I mean, I don't begrudge actors their livings or anything, but please, make a not-shitty and not-totally-mediocre movie? Please? Just one more? I know he's always made lots of crap films between good ones, but at least they were sometimes interesting crap. Though the last decent movie he was in was Young Adam three years ago, I still sort of want to see the awful-looking Stay, because depending on your mood, it either has an amazing team behind it - Mark Forster of Monster's Ball and David Benioff of 25th Hour - or a maudlin, anvil-dropping team behind it - Mark Forster of Monster's Ball and David Benioff of 25th Hour. And because after all, I'm shallow, and Ewan McGregor's face is pretty, pretty, pretty.)

October 24, 2005

One after another

Thank you for the nice comments about the stockings!

I really liked this pattern; it called for sport weight yarn (Dale Heilo) on 3.25mm (US3) needles, but I downsized it a little with fingering weight (Dale Baby Ull) on 2.75mm needles. The pattern worked out just fine with the new gauge...don't you love it when that happens?

Blossom, Anna and Lulu all asked if they stay obediently up.

Oh boy, do they.

I cheated a little and sewed a band of elastic into the ribbing. If I make these again, I'd probably do what the Big Book Of Knitting recommends and create a tube of stockinette with three needle bindoff at the top of the ribbing as I knit to hold a band.

Overall, a very fun, semi-quick knit, though my tension leaves a little to be desired around the needle changes - it's hard to create an even float when the yarn wants to take the shortest distance around the corner. I might have to...gasp! try Magic Loop out if I make these again and forego my beloved DPNs.

So all along, I've been insisting that these little socks were just a break from the thirteen quintillion other big projects I've got going; that they were a fun little fillip and that I'd get back to duty-knitting just as soon as I could.

Lies, all lies.

Despite all the bitching I've done about Merino Oro, I went out and bought another skein and cast on for the Fir Cone Square out of Folk Shawls.

This'll be a Christmas gift, too, so it counts as Knitting I Should Be Doing, right?

My Sainted Boyfriend came with me to the yarn store and got suckered into keeping the swift turning evenly while I wound all 1300 yards of this by hand. Sorry! And also, hee!

October 23, 2005

Done: Norwegian Stockings

You make me feel like dancing.

Pattern: Norwegian Stockings, Folk Socks by Nancy Bush
Yarn: Dale Baby Ull in colors 3172 (dark brown), 5703 (sky blue) and 0020 (cream).
Yardage: Approximately 300 yards MC, 180 yards CC and 40 yards accent color.
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 2.75mm Brittany birch DPNs (set of 4)
Gauge: 32 stitches/10cm
Modifications: Knit with fingering weight yarn and 2.75mm needles instead of sport weight yarn and 3.25mm needles.

See all entries on this project

October 21, 2005

Stranded

I finished up the first Norwegian Stocking (Nancy Bush, Folk Socks) last night, while watching the Caps lose (again).

I am completely, perfectly in love with this clever little pattern, where function and form coexist quietly.

The sole of the foot and toe are worked in a basic 1x1 check, giving strength to the fabric and producing a marvelously thick, sturdy, cushy piece of knitting.

Inside:

Outside:

The heel flap is a pretty, larger check, with the turn done in a plain color. The decreases are written such that the double line of blue continues from hem all the way to the toe uninterrupted. Brilliant.

Inside:

Outside:

The calf shaping is done all in one row, within the pattern. The color shift you see in the wrong side of the work can be blamed on switching from one-handed to two-handed when my left hand cramped, and being careless about which color went on top.

Inside:

Outside:

And then I cast on for the second sock.

These are a fun, fairly quick knit...and Fair Isle always goes like lightning anyway, it's so interesting to see the pattern emerge. I didn't pull an all-nighter for these things (though I was sorely tempted to)...three or four hours of knitting for two days was enough to finish the first stocking. It's so hard to put something down, once one is obsessed - you know how we do.

October 20, 2005

The living room at 11:45

< Yawn >

< glancing at the clock > It's getting late. Better get to bed...I'm just going to knit off this needle. It'll take just a minute.

---

Well, maybe I should just finish the round. Don't they tell you to never stop in the middle of a row in straight knitting? Though I can't see how it could make much of a difference on DPNs, it must be important. Hang on just one second; I just want to finish this round.

---

< regarding knitting critically > Maybe it wouldn't be wise to stop in the middle of a pattern repeat...what if my gauge changes between now and when I pick it up tomorrow? It could happen, you know. I don't think it ever has before, but it totally could. Yeah, I think I better finish this repeat. It'll be done in a flash.

---

Oh, these calf decreases are written in such a cool way...what a smart idea. The rounds are fairly flying by now...let me just get the pattern set, 'kay? One sec.

---

Boy, the rounds are going so quickly after decreasing. I'm practically at the heel shaping anyway...it would take only a couple more pattern repeats. I'm worried, though, that I didn't buy enough yarn for both socks...the yardage counts are off, I think. Or my substitutions were miscalculated - they called for DK on 3.25mms, but I'm using fingering on 2.75mms.

What?

Of course that 3/4 millimeter makes a difference. Weren't you listening at ALL?

---

Dude, this heel flap is so cool. Here, look. Look! Pretty, right? What's that look for?

---

Okay. I mean it this time. I'm done, really. I just want to turn the heel flap and work the gussets and the body of the foot real quick.


It'll take just a minute.


Where are you going?

October 19, 2005

Danke Schön

Thank you so much for the nice comments about Der Schmetterling! It's pretty, but it's not exactly practical for everyday wear anymore. During the summer, I wore it a couple times over a plain white strapless shift, under a fitted bracelet-sleeve jacket. The pink dress I have on under it in the photo is something I bought at Ann Taylor many moons ago...you can't see the back, but I couldn't...quite...zip it all the way. Gah.

It took about four ounces of Jaggerspun Zephyr, a laceweight Merino/tussah silk blend. The yarn is fabulously airy, with that peculiar rich crunchiness silk gives, tempered by the softness of the wool. It's exceptionally strong for its weight, too, which is more than I can say for other laceweights *cough*Merino Oro*cough*. I liked making this a lot - it goes blazing quick on 4.5mm (US7) needles, since the lace stre-e-e-e-tches so much when blocked. There are less than 100 stitches on the needle at the widest point. The double frill was the most tedious part...the rest was mindless, Zen knitting.

New things: the Norwegian Stockings out of Nancy Bush's Folk Socks are an object of desperate coveting for me (and I am the Grand High Poobah of covetousness).

I'd call myself a process knitter more than anything else; I like having a FO as much as anyone, but (nerd alert) I take a lot more pleasure in the nitty-gritty of technique and method. I actually cast on for the stockings last night with some random yarn ends lying around in my stash, just to try 'em out. I'm planning to get yarn for the "real" project today, but I was very taken with the way the cuff is written, and wanted to see it knit up right away. Nancy Bush stripes the ribbing with a row of plain knitting at each color change, so the integrity of the stripe isn't compromised either puckered

Or stretched

Why didn't I think of that before? Narrow stripes in regular ribbing look fuzzy in the purl portions of the color change, since the loops of the preceding color show below the loop of the new shade. This way gives you proper stripey stripes. Brilliant.

And THANKS, too, to Meg of Yarn Expressions for her tip on intarsia, taken from Kaffe Fassett. I'm sure everyone else already knew this, but (as usual) I'm the last one to the party. She told me to use short lengths (I'm finding that even strands as long as three yards or so work fine), let them hang, and just pull them through when they get too tangled.

It works capitally. Kiss my bobbin!

WTF moment of the day: The squirrely-looking roofing guy who came out to investigate the water pouring down alongside the woodstove chimney apparantly informed my boyfriend that he (he being Jeff) is "smart not to get an Amurrican one, 'cause Amurrican ones are nuts." An American one of what? "Get"? Two for the price of one! Vaguely misogynistic AND vaguely racist, all in one comment! How efficient.

I just realized that "misogynistic" has "miso" in it. That can't be a coincidence. That's got to mean something. It's making me hungry, too.

Gratuitous shoe photo of the day. I was a solitary crusader against this whole round-toe trend, but I've given in. These are too cute to wage a war over.

October 18, 2005

Done: Butterfly

Pattern: Butterfly, Rowan 37
Yarn: Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-Silk in color Suede
Yardage: Approximately 1200 yards
Yarn Source: Springwater Fiber Workshop
Needles: 4.5mm (US7) Crystal Palace bamboo circular
Gauge: ? blocked ? unblocked
Modifications: Yarn and needle substitution

See all entries on this project

Papillon

Not much in the way of new knitting today, as I'm working on relaunching this site together with my proprietary food site and looking into moving Blogger archives to Wordpress. Come ONE, come ALL! You'll SEE categorized posts! You'll THRILL to reliable images! You'll be AMAZED at how much better it looks!

I did get a very leeetle bit done on the second intarsia panel of the Felted Floral Bag while watching 13 Conversations About One Thing (the characters and storylines are engrossing, but thought-provoking? Not so much. The pretension is so thick you could float a raft built of not-cigars on it and sail away).

Compare, please:

I really went fast and loose with the first panel, getting sloppy about tension and ends and holes because I figured it would all come out in the wash (har har har). I'm doing the second panel more carefully - starting a new strand for every block rather than trying to fudge long floats, paying attention to the twisting tension, and generally doing, you know, real intarsia as opposed to whatever Fair Isle mongrel thing I was winging before.

Now, of course, I want to rip back and redo the first panel. Which would be ridiculous. When felted, none of this will matter. Right? Right?

I realized, too, while going through my blog template, that I never showed pictures of one finished object. So here it is, the kupukupu, the sommerfugl, the papillon, the pulelehua, the farfalla, the mariposa, the paru-paro, the schmetterling - that is, Rowan 37's Butterfly:

(Please don't mind that odd pose. I think something in the stack I built to hold the camera at the proper height - a coffee mug on a stack of books on my alarm clock on the nightstand - may have been a bit askew. More than likely, of course, it was me)

October 17, 2005

Similes and Metaphors

Sunshine! Blessed, precious sunshine! I feel like dancing. That is, I would, if I didn't have roughly the same amount of grace as an elephant on a trapeze. Cirque du Soleil, indeed.

After hurling more expletives than a sailor with Tourette's and hating myself more than an anorexic celebrity, I have this:

What a difference some stem stitch makes. This is what it looked like last night:

Ugly, right? I was cursing, rubbing my raw fingertips together, seriously questioning my sanity and wanting to write a hateful letter to Nicky Epsein care of Interweave. Sadists! Jerks! How could you publish a pattern that clearly exists solely to shame and humiliate knitters who attempt it?! Who knit the sample in the magazine, anyway? A magical friend named "Photoshop", that's who. I got a box out and shoved the knitting in there, still on the needle, covered it up and went to bed.

It looks a lot better now. I went with two colors because I wanted a really graphic quality to the flowers; as written, I thought it looked a bit fussy and precious. It was pretty, and cleverly charted to make the flowers look three-dimensional...but for me, I thought it was twee-er than a toile-covered toilet paper holder. In stark brown and white, though, the shapes and lines really pop.

< very small voice> Besides, this would have been a pricey little project with seven colors. Spendier than my sister with other people's credit cards. < /very small voice>

I can't wait to see this felted. I'm thinking that I'll add leather handles rather than the felted I-cord called for, line it, and do a different finishing treatment for the sides and add a closure. And then I'll have a great little bag for portable knitting projects. I'll be cooler than a penguin martini.

October 15, 2005

Crazy in love

To whosoever receives this message:

Please help me. I am being held hostage by infinite butterfly skeins of merino. I don't know what they want with me; only that they are unwilling to listen to reason. They made me cast on; they made me do intarsia. I don't ever do intarsia; I hate intarsia; I'm sick with self-loathing over giving in to them. There seem to be more of them every second...I don't know where they're coming from.

Send reinforcements. And also, bobbin holders.

P.S. - Blossom over at Whispering Pine received the Trinity sweater! She looks absolutely gorgeous in it...and I can comfortably stop with the knitting-but-not-wearing guilt. AND, she's sending me some incredible sock patterns! Millstone riddance and new patterns, all in one day...huzzah!

October 14, 2005

Smile like you mean it

Now this is interesting (provided, of course, that by "Now" you mean "No one in the entire world but Eunny Jang will think").

This is one of the links that shows up regularly in these AdSense boxes I'm testdriving. They handknit and sell sweaters using "traditional clan patterns" traced from your last name. Like, if your name is Ó Caomhánaigh (or, you know, Cavanaugh), you'll receive a sweater patterned with honeycomb for work and cables for good luck.

It's a beautiful sweater - but I thought it was well-established that the Aran sweater as we know it had nothing to do with family crests, ancient symbols or identifying dead fishermen washed up an shore. The Aran sweater - drop-shouldered, saddle-strapped, and patterned in a symmetrical fashion with any number of textured stitches - is a commercial product of this century, born with the arrival of big fishing outfits and tourism to the Isles. The Scottish gansey, with its utilitarian gussets and quick-knit construction, is a traditional fisherman's garment, but the Aran is purely an item for export. The motifs have no traceable meaning or symbolism; Alice Starmore even goes so far as to say that most of the "traditional" textured stitches we know were made up over a period of years by one woman whose name has been lost to time.

The idea of an ancient homespun tradition is mighty appealing, though, especially when combined with the thought of discovering a heritage you may not have known you had. This company (which seems to have a pretty big footprint in the economy of the Aran Islands) has certainly done its research. They know exactly what your average baby boomer American tourist wants to hear. They make wonderful things - and I bet they do a bang-up business selling them.

Don't you just love it when you go to pull out the center end of a new skein, and this happens?

I really think it's my favorite part of knitting. I can't decide what I like best about it - the tangled ends, the snarled center, the inability to transport the ball...it's awesome, really.

The sweater jacket is moving a bit faster now:

I finished both back sides and knit across them to join, and am at the first few increases. It's hard to get a sense of scale in a picture, but it looks...curiously tiny. It's been pinned to meaurements for the photo, but it looks like doll clothing. I don't know if it's a function of the pattern, or the shape, or what, but hey - if it looks the same way on me, that'll be a good thing, right?

I leave you with this - a booklet published by the Chungsong company, promoting their cotton crochet thread. It doesn't contain patterns, but instead just has pictures of the things you could make, I guess, if you bought their yarn. It's mostly stuff like badly photographed and utterly irony-less antimacassars and doilies, but the cover shot is worth note:

Knitting as art therapy for the deeply, deeply insane.

October 13, 2005

Pull this thread

Only a little bit to report on today: the sweater jacket is progressing, very slowly. I'm working the pattern out as I go, and keep running up against miscalculations and construction conundrums.

This is the right side of the back. The wonky bit in the center is the line along which decreases are being made, in this fashion:

It looks much better in real life; less like I screwed up with the Fair Isle and more like a piece of patterned fabric that has been cut and seamed, matching the pattern. Which is precisely why I wanted to do the shaping along tailoring lines in the first place.

Kate asked about the yarn - my mom brought it back as a gift on her last trip to Korea. It is sport or DK-weight virgin merino, in a chocolatey brown and a very pale cream-grey beige. The label is a bit mystifying:

I can't tell if "Fine Wool" is a brand or a generic descriptor; the Hangul at the bottom of the first picture just spells "Pa-Een Ool", or "Fine Wool" transliterated to Korean ears. So then, is "NY Wool" the brand? Or "Textiles Vertrauen?" And how many yards are in 100grams, anyway, like 200 yards or so? Ehhhh.

It does seem like a very high-quality yarn; it's wondrous soft, evenly spun, and has had no defects I've come across. I don't think it's highly processed to feel that way, either - it has a marked tendency to felt, to the point that I feel it happening a little as I knit it up. I know a lot of Shetland wools will do so, but I've never actually had it happen before. Should have made this sweater with those crazy no-sew steeks, heh.

Postscript - Sorry about the ads, guys. I'm just trying a couple things out; they might not be permanent. Quick headcount - do they bother you or make reading the blog irritating?

Post Postscript - Do you know anyone who appears to gain a lot of nourishment from self-created drama and loudly proclaimed martyrdom; who actually seems to draw life from manufactured angst and until he becomes a monstrous, self-parodying caricature buoyed up by nothing more than his own bloat and the backs of bystanders steamrolled into taking part in whatever that day's ridiculous emotional distress happens to be? And then has the nerve to be vain about it? Uh, not that I do, or anything.

October 12, 2005

Profligacy

A Play In Two Acts

Cast of Characters

The Baby Fair Isle------A shower gift.
The Circular Shrug-----An experiment.
Dad's Gansey----------The martyr.
The Lace Scarf---------The lucky one.
Martha---------------The good girl.
The Rib and Cable Sock-A filler.
The Striped Sock-------A second filler.
The Sweater Jacket-----The vixen.
Eunny----------------------The narrator.

Act The First

(Lights come up)

Eunny: There are things I ought to be knitting. There's the shower gift for January, the one that started fine but looked all wonky and had to be restarted.

(enter The Baby Fair Isle)

There's sweet, lovely Martha, who I loved briefly and then chucked without a tear or a kind word.

(enter Martha, the Good Girl)

And there's Dad's gansey - the long-suffering sweater for my sainted father, the WIP who's patiently borne my indiscretions and my straying ways, the one I'll come back to, the only one that means anything to me.

(enter The Martyr)

Act The Second

(Lights come up, this time in lurid red)

Eunny: Then there are the temptations, the things I want to knit, the things I covet and dream about and creep out doors at midnight to rendezvous with in seedy bars and nightclubs. The ones for whom I duck into yarn stores, the ones for whom I buy presents of materials, the ones I lavish time and attention on - the bright moths that captivate and then disappear, having flown too close to the flame.

I'm going to rip out that shrug and start again. It gives me no grief, no pause - after all, it's just an experiment, right?

(enter The Shrug)

And the socks - who cares? I'll knit them when I feel like it. They're just socks, a dime a dozen, they don't mean anything.

(enter The Socks)

That lace scarf? I'm done with her. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Already forgotten; she was beautiful, but she was shallow and cold.

(The Lace Scarf enters, but remains at far stage right)

I've moved on.

(enter the Sweater Jacket)

I give up. I've tried and tried to reign myself in, but I just can't seem to control my appetites. I embrace my profligacy; I welcome licentiousness. Monogamy is for suckers.

October 11, 2005

Let the spinning wheel turn

I used to be a sweet girl. I would sit quietly, industriously knitting my little sweaters and socks and shawls, ever mindful of my mother's admonishions to keep my legs crossed at the ankle, to speak in a low voice, to never be drunk in public and to be modest and unassuming in all things.

Of course, girlhood passes - pearls slipping off a string, and all that. Suddenly, the world was awash in colors I'd never noticed; patterned with textures I could never have expected. It was as though a curtain had been drawn back to reveal the secret lives of the staid and the familiar, and I was watching with vicarious, knowing pleasure. A sudden thrill of understanding - an awakening, if you will.

Can
you
blame me?

I want to learn to spin. How do I go about it?

October 10, 2005

Business as usual

Thank you so much for all the sweet, thoughtful comments on the USMP. You guys make me blush.

On to pattern notes, and questions about the sweater -

Yarn substitution is a big issue with this garment; the Plassard alpaca called for isn't widely available on this side of the pond. Frog Tree Alpaca, Knitpicks Alpaca cloud, Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, and some singularly gorgeous handspun have all been spotted over at the knitalong, but I am deliriously in love with the Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca I used. It's a fingering-weight 100% alpaca yarn that manages to be really rather all-around decadent and reasonably priced at the same time (poor man's cashmere, indeed). It even comes in an enormous palette of beautiful, sophisticated colors to boot. Four and a half skeins (about 900 yards) of main color and most of one skein (about 150 yards) of contrast color went into the smallest size.

On 3.25mm (US3) needles and a gauge of 7 stitches to the inch, it took exactly two weeks from caston to weaving in the last end. Therein lies a huge part of the appeal of this garment - though the shaping is fresh and architectural and unusual, the knitting itself couldn't be simpler (plain stockinette, done almost entirely in the round). The payoff is exponential to the amount of effort put in.

Pattern mods - I modified the bell sleeves to 10 stitches (about an inch and a half) smaller in circumference - it made a big difference. I also worked the sleeves a little differently than called for - I worked the short-row cuff as written; then decreased 1 stitch at each end of the round on every 19th row 5 times to give an even flare to the sleeve, starting about halfway down the forearm. The way the pattern is written, the sleeves are knit to measurements rather than row counts - I think I took about one inch off the total length.

Blocking - though I covet a blocking board with the lust of a thousand nuns, I'm still blocking on the guest bed mattress. I wet-blocked, squeezed out excess water, and pinned carefully, matching stitch for stitch and checking with a big T-square.

With all that said - I want to keep this! < /three year old >

Back to business as usual around here - we went to see The Corpse Bride tonight (it looked spectacular, of course...but I think Tim Burton's starting to mistake creepiness for whimsy and forgetting to put his tongue in his cheek). The rainy weekend we had seems to have ushered in fall proper - it's getting so a little something at the throat would be welcome. I've started a scarf with the leftover white alpaca, using the lace pattern from the Kimono Scarf and a simple garter stitch border:

and I'm ready to start on a new project (that will be mine! MINE! Muahahah!) - the sweater jacket, re-imagined:

In playing with the Korean merino, it turns out that fair isle produces a marvelously smooth, sturdy fabric.

I think I'll do this little jacket as a nipped-waist type thing, patterned brocade-style with a very simple light-color lattice over a dark brown background. I'm thinking princess shaping; I'm thinking seamstress detailing; I'm thinking I need to start right. This. Second.

October 09, 2005

Done: Union Square Market Pullover

It's finished.

It is a beautiful sweater.

Pattern: Union Square Market Pullover, by Kate Gilbert in Interweave Knits fall 2005
Yarn: Garnstudio/DROPS Alpaca in colors 6205 (pale blue) and 100 (cream).
Yardage: Approximately 900 yards MC, 150 yards CC
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 3.25mm Addi Turbo circular
Gauge: 27 stitches/10cm
Modifications: Sleeves altered to reduce cuff circumference

See all entries on this project

October 07, 2005

Who built the ark

Rainy day.

The knitting for the Union Square Market pullover is done! The sleeves are blocking, and then there will only be seaming and finishing to do.

I went button shopping today, too. They didn't have exactly what I wanted - I was thinking very small oval or rounded rectangle ebony buttons - but I think these are fine. If I'm out and I see something that really catches my eye, it'll be no problem to switch them later.

The smaller shoulder buttons have a right side:

And a wrong side:

Yeah, I like the wrong side better too.

The finishing instructions on this don't make sense to me - as written, you make the button loops by anchoring the center of a strand of yarn in the hem, twisting, and anchoring the end of the cord in the next stitch. But don't you have to double the kinked strand to get it to "relax" into twisted cord? And don't you have to knot the ends? How is this going to work without being ungainly or awkward? This logic is not our Earth logic.

I finished up the first rib and cable sock, too:

I really like this pattern, save a few quibbles with the heel turn; I think it's a graceful, not-boring, well-fitted basic sock for showing off a pretty fiber. It would look great as knee socks...or as a pair of men's dress socks.

Bizarro tidbit of the day - am I a bad person for finding this to be one of the more amusing things I've seen recently?

I told them they should have made "Thou shalt not use my name for crass commercial enterprise" one of the Big Ten. Either that, or God forgot to renew his trademark. I think the display stand is what really got me - generically Old-Testament style shepherds (you know...full black beard; flowing robes), crooks in hand, happily chomping on these things under a rainbow. Heh.

October 06, 2005

Your cheating heart

I got a little bit done on the USMP's second sleeve last night:

This sweater is ridiculously close to being done, though I hear the finishing on this is kind of a bitch. Twisted cord button loops? With vague, confusing instructions? Meh.

I really think that attention to detail in the last steps is what makes or breaks a sweater...that the most beautiful knitting can be spoiled by haphazard finishing. Unfortunately, finishing is exactly when I get bored and sloppy. But not this time, oh no - this is such a special garment, it would really be a shame to mar it now. Besides, it means I get to go button shopping! Any suggestions? So far, I'm thinking plain mother of pearl (boring, I know), or turned wood.

I did end up modifying the bell sleeve a little - I cast on 10 stitches fewer than called for, and simply decreased evenly until I got to the elbow/narrowest point/met back up with the pattern. The new shaping preserves the stark geometry that I loved about this pattern, but doesn't quite give the...uh...seal flipper effect of the original.

Why yes, that is a sliver of plastic drinking straw I'm using as a stitch marker. Sad, I know, but it's thinner and flatter than any commercially produced markers I've seen, is a lot more stable than a yarn loop, and doesn't induce any guilt when I lose it. Three for three is good enough for me.

I got a lot less done on the sleeve than I'd hoped to, though, because I was distracted by this:

I know, I know, I'm the cheatingist cheater who ever cheated. I'm like Cheaty McCheaterson. But socks are quick (I got this done while watching the Caps game and a few minutes of the DC United game), and little, and won't take but a few days, so they don't count as breaking a WIP diet, right? Right?

I have to admire this patttern (Nancy Bush's Rib and Cable socks in the fall '05 Interweave) for its cleverness in some respects - the leg shaping is done by knitting in straight rib at the top, widest portion of the leg, and then starting cables as the calf tapers as a kind of self-shaping around the ankle - but am left high and dry by the peculiar YO-peppered heel turn (tiny holes in your socks, anyone?). If I make these again, I'll do a regular short-row heel, and make them as knee socks altered to fit over my weirdly disproportionate man-calves. True Tales: Every time I shop for knee-high boots, the salesperson ends up shaking his head and muttering something about "There might be some wides in the back." The "cow" is pretty much implied here, I'm thinking. Also True: when trying these socks on when I was only an inch from caston, I broke one of the DPNs trying to tug them to the right place on my leg. Gahhhh.

October 05, 2005

Todos Sobre Mi Madre

Bless her. I went to pick her up from the airport yesterday, and managed to go from this:

to this:

while waiting for the ice caps to melt, for the sun to go out, and for her to clear customs.

I guess I attracted a lot of attention, doing the knitting-while-standing thing with my eyes fixed on a book propped on the rail in front of me, needles pointing in every direction and the yarn ball looped over my wrist. A lot of people came over to strike up conversations (I'm making a sweater for my pet boa); one broad just started fondling the fabric and flipping through the pattern magazine without a word (Gahh! Are your hands clean?); and one woman looked at the porcupine in my hands, decided I looked clumsy and not to be trusted, and hustled her kids away (I should have worn safety goggles).

Bless my mama, too, for the lovely suprise she brought me:

100% virgin merino from Korea, in a deep chocolate and a greyish beige. She bought eight skeins of each, still wrapped in their factory bags. Unfortunately, the labels say only that they're 100 gram skeins of "D4" weight new wool and give washing instructions - no yardage or US weight. Undaunted, I played with them a bit this morning, and found that they knit up beautifully on a 3.5mm (US4) needle to 5.5 stitches and 8 rows per inch:

and that both colors felt marvelously.

The question is, what should I make with them? Gloves? Mittens?

I do have an idea I've been mulling over, for which the chocolate merino would be perfect -

A structured sweater jacket, with an inverted back pleat to give it shape, a self-belt, big covered buttons, a wide shawl collar, slightly belled sleeves, and same-shade lace peeping out at cuff, hem, and neckline. I was thinking of this in a tweedy brown wool, but this new stuff would be mighty tasty, too. The grey wool might be nice for showing off cables.

Unfortunately, I have infinitely more ideas than I have time to execute them, and way too many WIPs as it is. I guess I'll finish the USMP, and then decide what to do.

Here's the motif of the circular shrug:

And a shot of the other little giftie my mom sweetly brought me:

Post Script - Using the highly scientific and technically infallible method of "First Come First Served," I'm going to send the Trinity sweater to Eastern White, whose blog is compulsively readable indeed. Email me!

Post Post Script - a lot of people find this blog by Googling my name; it's a little creepy, I guess, especially when the IP gives me an idea of who they are and wonder why on earth they would look me up, but no biggie. More and more people are finding this blog by Googling knitting terms and the names of projects I've done, which is really cool. But who is the person finding this blog by Googling "tall women clips", and how did it bring them here?

October 04, 2005

Well...

Well, I still hate it.

Blocking helped a lot, but it's still all wrong for me. It's too bad, because it really is a pretty sweater - I just don't think it's particularly flattering, or fits or hangs well.

Would anyone out there want to give this a home in her closet? I don't know anyone IRL who would wear or appreciate this, and I have no desire to rip this or work with the yarn ever again. The garment is 34" at the bust and 22" from shoulder to hem. Bear in mind that it's not perfect - I wasn't particularly technically proficient when I made this, so the knitting is a bit uneven and the ends aren't woven in very well. Still, it's a nice enough lightweight sweater...or you could cannibalize it for the yarn. I'll include the extra skein of Trinity left over from this project, too.

If you'd like it, just email or leave a comment, and I'll be happy to mail it out to you. In return? Send me the link to your site, so I can beef up my files of reading material!

October 03, 2005

Block me, Amadeus

Frenzy of housecleaning yesterday. Floors waxed, boxes unpacked, dark spaces between furniture and walls investigated, stored clothes aired and refolded. That is, all those things would have gotten done if I weren't a mere evolutionary step removed from a raccoon distracted by tinfoil and gotten all sidetracked by any and everything that seemed marginally more interesting than changing the filter in the range hood.

I think this was my first finished object ever. I've been knitting for at least fifteen or twenty years, since I was a wee small kid - I have vivid memories of trying to figure out how to fix a dropped stitch in the blanket I was making for a baby doll I had - but I had this bad habit of never finishing anything. At fourteen, I'd blow my allowance on Wool-Ease and overdue fees from the library; at sixteen I'd blow my Starbucks paycheck on Rowan magazines and that beautiful 4-ply botany wool they used to produce; at eighteen I discovered Noro. I've probably started hundreds of projects, knitting and ripping and rewinding until the poor yarns waved white flags of destroyed elasticity and fiber fatigue. Thus it was that a lot of self-manufactured fanfare went along with my finishing this sweater, on a trip to California, four or five years ago.

Too bad I don't care for it at all. It's from a Jaeger pattern book, in that peculiar papery silk/cotton/polyamide Trinity yarn (my first - and last - impulse to spend big money on manmade fiber). Nothing about it is right for me - it's too short; the cable panel down the middle and the high neck aren't flattering; the knitting isn't smooth or even; the fabric is fairly delicate. But, I knit this before I believed in blocking (forgive me, O blocking sprites!), so I'm hoping a soak and aggressive pinning will even things out and give it a bit of fluidity in addition to correcting the size issues.

I found my Flower Basket Shawl, too, crumpled in a heap on top of one of my bookcases. It was in a bad way:

I didn't block it enough before, and the spring in the yarn (100% wool, if I recall) had drawn it in to become a lumpy little mess. Another sacrifice at the altar of T-pins and Woolite:

Much better.

I know I've pimped this before, but the Yarn Harlot's lace blocking method is genius. Fewer pins, straighter edges, less making of the crazy.

I've gotten a lot done on the Union Square pullover, too - the body is blocking, and I've started the sleeves.

Speaking of which, do you think the bell is a little too big? They're beautiful and graceful and all, but I fear it won't be quite so elegant when the cuffs fall in the spaghetti sauce or knock over a glass of wine or simply give a general effect of a little girl trying on her mom's fur coat. I'm thinking of taking the suggestions from some of the good ladies at the Union Square Knit Along and modifying it for a cuff caston of 72 stitches rather than 92. I was looking forward to knitting a pattern exactly as written - and this is a well-written, interesting pattern, indeed - but I guess it's not to be.

I'm working on my Craftster shrug, too:

I'll block the bejeebus out of this to even the cables and give the thing drape. No chunky knits, ever!



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