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 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!

September 29, 2005

Can't help myself...

I love you and nobody else.

When I said I was obsessed, I must have been understating it. I've never made so much progress so quickly before - I think it's a combination of it being really mindless knitting (stockinette in the round, anyone? Huzzah!) and my being completely, totally enamored of the dreaminess of the yarn and the beautiful resulting fabric. I hate putting it down, it's so pleasant to work on. I'm almost done with the back and should be reattaching yarn to the front in the next couple days.

I've been following a thread on Craftster about knitting a circular shrug - it has been really interesting to watch it go from a starting model, to technical discussions on construction and technique, to works in progress, to actual finished objects with documentation. The organic progression of the discussion is amazing...and has made me desperate to make a shrug. Using the basic method outlined in the thread, I'm going to do one with a cabled rib collar and Celtic knots in the body. It means I finally get to use the knot design I charted weeks ago - whee!

Picture a block of four of these, the two on the right half mirror-images of the swatch, and the four intertwined, as a panel on the back . I bought the Cascade 220 for another purpose, but this seems just about right at the moment.

And last, the ubiquitous "shawl in the window" shot to show off the stitch pattern:

September 27, 2005

Stick a chopstick

in it; the Kimono Shawl (from Cheryl Oberle's book Folk Shawls) is done. I was absolutely terrified that this would spring a leak with aggressive blocking - the yarn is exceedingly fine merino, and it caught on rough edges of my fingernails once or twice. I settled for running cotton yarn around the perimeter, giving it a brief soak in wool wash, and easing the pattern into bloom rather than blocking very tautly.

The difference between the blocked and unblocked fabric is still pretty remarkable. I really think this is why I'm so fascinated by lace - that near-miraculous transformation. Same reason why I love butterflies, and babies, and, uh...Shrinky-Dinks.

I'll have some better images later, hopefully.

This was a very quick knit, taking about 10 days from caston to blocking, and not being an exclusive project during that time. I only did 20 repeats instead of the prescribed 25, but at about 62" finished length, I don't think anyone's going to be too upset. It was a cheap little project, too - it cost exactly $16.00 to make, with one 1600yd (100g) hank of Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro, a laceweight 100% wool. There's even enough left over (about a third of the hank) for me to try some fine-gauge felting experiments.

This one will be my mom's Christmas present; I'll probably make two more to gift to the other Ladies Of A Certain Age in my life. Hooray for preparedness!

And hooray for starting new projects -

I am OBSESSED. I've never actually worked with 100% alpaca before - I can't believe what a pleasure it is just to feel this stuff run through my fingers. DROPS alpaca. Sky blue and cream. Swoooon.


the highly coveted and very popular Union Square Market Pullover from the current Interweave. I love everything about this - the way the severity of the lines are tempered by the softness of the yarn; the beautiful technical details like the buttons along the shoulder seam; the simplicity of the hem facings, the unusual sleeve and neck treatments...alas, I don't know if I could, given hours of reflection, come up with anything that could possibly be less flattering on me than the high neckline combined with the double-thickness detail. The last thing I need is anything that draws attention to my chest - and high necklines tend to make me look like I've got a second chin hovering around my armpits. I thought about altering the pattern in a number of ways...but I really like this sweater as designed, and do think that the flap goes a long way towards making the geometry of the thing work. I really wanted to knit it as written.

It's a good thing that it'll look great on my (similarly sized, but considerably less busty) sister.

A tip for invisible caston - instead of using waste yarn, use the cable of a smaller size circular as your foundation. It's stable enough to prevent your stitches from twisting - and when you get to where you need to knit the stitches, they're already on the needle. Totally sweet.