Saturday, December 20, 2008

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Posted below about the mitten saga, Reader--a story that is sadly bereft of visual aids. No one wants a picture of a half-frogged, tear-soaked mitten.

At left, a picture of a project I finished in November: the Norwegian Star Earflap hat. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Luxury Donegal Tweed, a wool/angora blend. The yarn is wonderfully soft and I love the angora halo (I am not sure it can properly be called a halo? but anyway, the angora fuzziness). The problem with this hat is that it's not actually super, super warm. The yarn is very light. If I were to knit this hat again, I think I would do it in a bulky or a heavy worsted yarn.

And here's my current stockinette sock-in-progress, knit mostly in the movies. The yarn is Knit Picks Felici in Coney Island. Felici is soft but surprisingly durable--the pair I knit in Felici Pebble has held up well so far. I like the short color repeats on this one. I am including two shots of what is clearly a very boring project because the picture with the bag is truer color-wise.

In that picture you can see my travel-sock set-up: the bag is from Etsy seller stuckinillinois. Her craftsmanship is excellent and her prices are more than reasonable. I do the travel sock on two circs, though I prefer to knit socks on DPNs, so I don't drop stitches. I don't need to look at a pattern anymore--I'm on pair seven of these, so I should hope not--but I carry instructions from Double Diamond Knits in case I forget (again) how to do the heel cup.

All right, that was dull as dishwater. Just be glad you got photos this time, Reader.

Sinners in the hands of an angry god.

I have a tale of woe for you, Reader. I suppose it's less a tale than a catalogue of blights upon the soul. Sit down; get comfortable. You might need a drink for this one.

I have made at least--at least!--eight attempts to knit the Squirrel & Oak mittens from Hello Yarn. I should note that I have knit these before. I have knit these successfully before. Indeed, I'd count the previous incarnation of them as one of my most successful knitting projects ever. But Reader, I have grown prideful. I wanted to replicate my success. And I--well, I should say now that I don't think this is all my fault. The pattern said to use sport weight! I was just following the pattern! But no. I can't blame the pattern. The pattern worked once for me, even. The devil must be in my needles! It's got to be the needles.

Attempts I have made to knit the Squirrel and Oak mittens:
  1. With Elann Peruvian Quecha. I hate this yarn. It's scratchy and sheds like hell. But I had some on hand in a deep purple and a lovely contrasting light pink, and I, despite the voice in my head telling me no, cast on anyway. Got about a third of the way through the first mitten when I realized that the yarn wasn't going to get any less horrible even if I really, really wanted it to.

  2. With Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light. Kept casting on, knitting a few inches, and hating how my colorwork looked. While this pattern calls for a sportweight yarn, I found the Ultra Alpaca Light--ostensibly a DK, but seemed like a light DK--too thin.

  3. This one hurts the most. With Mission Falls 138. This is the DK version of Mission Falls 1820, and I chose it because 1820 is a robust, elastic wool. I should've known this one was doomed when the yarn tangled so badly whilst I was winding it that I had to spend two hours fixing it. Cast on, knit three inches, and frogged no less than three times. Finally got it going at a decent tension. Spent most of yesterday on the leaf mitten. Kept ignoring that the mitten was floppy (i.e., the gauge was too loose*) until close to the end, when I realized it was looking too long. I decided to block it to see if I'd like how it looked better then. Guess what happens to superwash wool knit too loosely, Reader? Guess what always happens to superwash wool knit too loosely? It grew, Reader. It grew and it grew, and like any possessed thing, it had to be stopped.

    I shot this one in the head and put it out of its misery. And mine.

  4. With Lion Wool. I'm about three inches into the first mitten. I do not have the heart to continue just yet. Who knows what might befall this mitten? Maybe the yarn will spontaneously disintegrate. Well: I know one thing. Like a captain and her ship, this mitten and I share a destiny, and we'll be going down together.
*Yeah, all right, I'll admit it: I didn't do a gauge swatch. They're mittens, for heaven's sake. I knit this mitten on size 4 circs and assumed that would be tight enough, since yarn actually calls for sizes 5-7. I know I'm a loose knitter, but I didn't think I knit that loosely. Had the same problem with the Ultra Alpaca Light too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This song is for the rats.

Have to photograph a couple of things for you, Reader, and will do so--well. It is probably best I make you no promises, don't you think? I knit an earflap hat lately out of Debbie Bliss Luxury Donegal Tweed, a wool/angora blend that's really wonderful Must also photograph for you the scarf I turned into a sweater for my new Dell Mini (I think we can guess what my priorities are if the computer gets a sweater before I do)--it's the old cabled scarf that I began two years ago and hadn't had the heart to pull out.

Current projects: am working on some flip-top mittens (Urban Necessities pattern) out of Malabrigo in an absolutely stunning rich blue. A bit fiddly because the mittens have fingers. Still working on the March Basic cardigan--have not actively knit on it in a few weeks because I'm afraid it might be too small. The last incarnation of this sweater was too big. Goldilocks does not have the fortitude to try for "just right" just yet. Have the back done (pictured) and one side.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A word is elegy to what it signifies.

I have failed, failed, failed you, Reader. I wish I had more knitting news to report, but, alas, my progress has been limited; I have not quite shaken my desire for rote stockinette. I'm working on the March Basic cardigan with the yarn I reclaimed from my Wicked, and it's going along fine. I finished a pair of stockinette Trekking socks and have started another in Knit Picks Felici, color Provence.

I knit another Odessa--it's a brilliant pattern for sure, and I can see myself knitting more of them in the future. I gave it away before I photographed it, though; I did it in a very, very soft Berroco Jasper, color Brown Santiago (3810), and was mildly disappointed at the murkiness of the colors. I thought the self-striping would be more apparent. The pattern is luckily charming enough on its own. I hope.

What made me think of you, Reader, is that I'm feeling the faint stirrings of desire for lace, of all things, and have been admiring the Seascape stole and shopping for laceweight in a deep, rich blue. What I really ought to do is knit myself an earflap hat against the coming winter--coming slowly, of course; thanks, global warming--or concentrate on my sweater, but I've been feeling a bit anxious that I haven't challenged myself enough.

But of course I'm thinking about knitting again because I should be thinking about books and poetry and teaching, and I'm off again now, with sincere apologies. Next time there will be pictures or blood.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Warm Welcome Back?

So, it's the last week of summer, and I've finally finished something that seems worth sharing here. This is the Arabesque afghan I started for my sister back in February and just finally mailed to her this afternoon. I used several brands of cheap worsted weight wool (mostly Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, but also Ella Rae Classic, Brown Sheep Nature Spun, and Paton's Merino), and I can safely say that they are all more or less the same, or at least not different enough to matter. The most tedious part of the whole process was the 4 rounds of single crochet I did for the border. Each round took an entire evening to work! But it gives a nice finished edge, so I'm glad I slogged through it. This project also gave me the chance to take advantage of all the spaces our awesome new apartment offers for cat-free blocking. I taped together a "blocking board" out of moving boxes, pinned the afghan down at the crucial corners, and left it on our not-quite-porch to dry entirely unmolested by Joe and Hazel. Very exciting.
I realize that a return to blogging after such a long absence really merits a more interesting post, but I'm not feeling up to much more than a set of progress shots, so here they are, as proof this thing got finished, whether or not it gets lost in the mail! Next up, an Impossible Wedding Afghan: one month to finish Knitty's Totally Autumn in 8 skeins of heather green Cestari yarn. So all I have to do it knit it 7 times faster than I knit the last afghan! Never let it be said I shy away from crafty challenges...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

She was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat.

I haven't been challenging myself much knitting-wise lately, Reader; I've been waiting for the right project and contenting myself with miles and miles and miles of stockinette for socks. It's soothing, but not exactly productive in the right way if you've already got almost more pairs of wool stockinette socks than you need for a Jersey winter and certainly more than you need for a Jersey summer. One of these days, though, I'll post about the sock yarns I've used; I've done enough now that the comparison might be a useful one.

Above is a pair I finished a couple of weeks ago out of Opal Hundertwasser, colorway Der Blaue Mond. The way the yarn worked out--complementary if not identical--was mostly an accident, but I kind of love it. The thing about Opal is that it's pretty unpleasant until you wash it--like, not terrible and not scratchy, exactly, but not a bucket of joy to work with--but it's durable, and I fully intend to be wearing these socks at the End Times.

More interestingly: I completed an Alan Dart toy cat pattern with the fussiest finishing I have ever done in my life. The pattern is total genius--I set out looking for something as realistic as possible I had to knit the thing twice because I was also teaching myself basic intarsia wrong and I made a less-than-stellar yarn choice. The yarn was Berroco Comfort DK, which is a good acrylic, but it's acrylic and splitty. It would have sufficed if I hadn't also needed to redo the intarsia, but I couldn't make myself do it unless I had some other incentive, so I switched to Ultra Alpaca Light. Now, I love Ultra Alpaca generally, though it drapes too much to use for a lot of things, but the off-white is just wonderful--I never wear white and would never gravitate to it as a color, but in alpaca it's creamy and looks like it would spread like butter. It was a pleasure knitting with it on this project.

The finishing, though: gross. I need to learn how to do it properly. I just kind of made it up as I went along, which meant there was a lot of redoing of seams. I think it turned out basically all right--certainly better than I had thought it would. I had to do a last minute substitution on the eyes, so the cat looks perpetually startled. I wound up using felt for the mouth and nose--I've never learned to embroider--and I think it works okay. She was named Esme by her new parents, and sometimes I get pictures of her adventures.

Lastly: another pair of socks, 3X1 rib. I did the first sock maybe a year and a half ago and decided that I may as well do the other earlier this summer while I was in such a productive sock-mode. The problem is that I had written down, in various places, three different needle sizes and had no idea at all which was the correct one. This wouldn't have mattered so much--a 0 and a 1 and a 1.5 only vary by .25mm each--if I hadn't been using a variegated yarn that pooled absolutely dreadfully. The picture at left is of the first sock. I didn't take a picture of the second, but just imagine the foot of the first sock, only going all the way up. The pooling doesn't bother me so much--I never knit matching socks, so whatever--but I loathe the way the yarn pooled on the second sock. I wanted the tops to have the same variegated and the feet to have the same flashing, and no amount of playing with needle sizes was going to give me that. I think this yarn--it's Jojoland Kaleidoscope--was the first hand-dyed yarn I ever bought, and I didn't know a thing about hand-dyed yarn and only a little about my own color preferences. I didn't think to consider, for example, that how a yarn looks in the hank doesn't tell you how it's going to look knitted up--and of course there's no real way to find this out, either, without knitting it up; but now I know enough to know that wow, orange is really not my scene, even if it is a rich autumnal orange and even if it looks lovely mixed into purple and green and blue. Despite all my smack-talking about these socks, though, I do kind of love them, the way we all loved troll dolls for awhile: they're ugly as hell, but charming when you get right down to it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Part III: Pictorial Motifs from The needles excellency

I have saved the best for last, Reader. While I was looking through The needles excellency, I was startled to find this design:

Why was I so surprised, you ask? Does it contain the text of Cardenio in its little squares? Does it prove the existence of the Knights Templar once and for all? That Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone??!!!!

No. I hope you're not disappointed, Reader, because it's better than all of those things. You see, the picture was already hanging on my wall:

My aunt made this when she was in high school, and after we cleaned out my grandmother's house, it went to me. My grandmother was an excellent crafter, and my aunt is, too, and they're both responsible for my continued (if all-thumbs) interest in knitting*. And, it turns out, seventeenth-century needlework. My aunt says she found the design in an old Dover pattern book. Isn't it neat to see it in color?

*Nana taught me how to crochet a long time ago, among other things. Unfortunately, I think I never learned how to crochet much more than rectangles, but you'd be surprised at how well crocheted rectangles work as Barbie gowns. My aunt sent me her knitting needles, crochet hooks, and other supplies, all of which are in heavy use at Casa Swinging Squares.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Part II: Pictorial motifs from The needles excellency

Lest you think I have forgotten you, Reader--well, I have not. The needles excellency doesn't contain many pictorial motifs that would be knit-daptable, so, um, these are kind of weird.

The birds are kind of cute. The flowers on the right scream "Feed me, Seymour!" to me and also look vaguely dirty.
And on the off chance you have some Renaissance Faire hunters on ye knite liste:
Why that, um, hunting dog (?) on the left has a pelican beak, I do not know. Maybe it is really a jackalope. Oh, wait, no, I guess it's a hare looking backwards at a hunting dog that is roughly the size of a man. I know people were shorter back then, but that's a little ridiculous.

One more part to go in this scintillating series!1!!one!!1

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Part I: Decorative motifs from The needles excellency (1631)

I finished a dreadful paper earlier this week about Renaissance needlework, and through the course of my research, I found a very popular needlework tract called The needles excellency*. Published by John Taylor in 1631, The needles excellency (download here) is a pattern book, designed--so Susan Frye, Jones & Stallybrass, etc. say--for women of the lower gentry who wanted to emulate the needlework of their social betters, who could afford to hire professional embroiderers to draw them any design they wanted. By the seventeenth century, you could, apparently, get the designs drawn (printed?) on the cloth for you at the printer's**. The book begins with a moderately hilarious poem about how great needlework is ("Hey, it's pretty useful, and it keeps the ladies from talking too much") and five sonnets about famous (dead) needleworkers: Catharine of Aragon, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth, Mary Sidney, and someone named Elizabeth Dormer, who I've never heard of***.

More to the point, though, the motifs themselves are pretty nifty, and I think some of them could be easily adapted to colorwork projects for knitting. In this post, I've linked to some of the decorative designs that I liked best; in subsequent posts, I'll link to some less abstract motifs. The top image has my two favorites: the designs are bold and crisp and would lend themselves to multiple-color fair isle really well. (Click on the images for a much, much larger view.)

*This being the seventeenth century, a time of verbose and specific book titles, the full title is The needles excellency a new booke wherin are diuers admirable workes wrought with the needle. Newly inuented and cut in copper for the pleasure and profit of the industrious.
**I think I'm citing Frye here.
***It's a bit of a motley crew--the women are clearly invoked for their celebrity, but why these particular women, I don't know. The sonnets make much of the former three as a line of queens. Elizabeth was sort of widely known to have abandoned her needlework when she assumed the throne. The most famous needleworker, at least in the late sixteenth century, was probably Mary Stuart, that notorious Catholic thorn in Elizabeth's side.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'd make my horcruxes out of stash yarn.

Hilariously, Opal is apparently releasing a line of sock yarn to coincide with the release of Half-Blood Prince in the fall. I'm not surprised that the marketing of this movie extends to yarn--I'm more surprised that they haven't thought of it before, frankly--but I will admit to being puzzled by 1) the absence of Hermione-branded yarn (Ginny, Hedwig, and the Weasley twins--or one of them anyway--have a skein*) and 2) the choice to focus on character-inspired yarn instead of doing something more obvious, like house colors. I suppose they thought the appeal would be broader this way. I'm sort of unclear on what the colors have to do with the characters at all--except for Hedwig and Draco, and maybe the Weasley twins if you're generous--but this is one of the most enjoyable consumer fantasy products I've seen in a long time.

*Then again, the choices here are pretty weird too--like, why pick the scene where Ginny's in a bathrobe? (Not sold that that's what's going on there, as the label's pretty fuzzy.) Why choose only one Weasley twin? (Unless the other just isn't visible, but again, not clear.) I'd also think that Snape would be an obvious choice for a colorway (greens and smoky grays and blacks). It seems to me that whoever put this line together got a folder full of promo pics and probably attached them to some yarn that was already in development. Alternate scenario: the pictures were fed into a program that extracted the colors and the yarn was developed randomly that way. The point, in any case, is that it does not appear that a great deal of thought went into this.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

20,000 leagues under the sea.

Oh, Reader, I keep starting projects in a bid to avoid my poor sweater. I just keep looking at the thing--I've got about 5-6" done (I think) on the right front--and thinking about how long it's going to take me. I think I'll just have to wait until the mood strikes me to work on it again. I don't want another failed sweater--which reminds me; I need to take apart the Lucy cardigan and the Wicked sweater and repurpose the yarn. I'm surrounded by yarn at my desk. I have the idea that I'll be able to get more organized when I get the giant filing cabinet of my dreams (why, hello there, tax refund), but really I suspect that this will encourage me to get more stuff.

Current projects on tap (take my word for it; no pictures yet):
  • I'm working on the Embossed Leaves socks from Favorite Socks out of KP Risata. I'm not finding the Risata splitty, as some have said. It's certainly sturdy.
  • I finished a hat of my own "design" out of Cascade Pastazza, a llama/wool blend. It needs blocking. It's just a simple zig zag cable from one of the Harmony Guides. The real story of this hat is in the color of the yarn: it's a deep blue/purple that rivals the best of Noro. It's the kind of blue I like to imagine is made out of ground up lapis lazuli--like an illuminated manuscript or a Renaissance painting.
  • I started another hat--I think the pattern is called "Claudia"--but I'm bored by it. No fault of the pattern.
  • I'm supposed to be getting a toy cat pattern via the mailz--it's a pretty sweet pattern, but I'm sort of nervous about the skill level I imagine it's going to require. Toys seem to need a lot of "finishing" work to make them look good, and I have little experience with finishing.
Well: not much to photograph in all of that, but I'll get you some pictures soon, Reader.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rip Van Winkle

Never let it be said that we here at Swinging Squares would disappoint you, Reader: ask and ye shall receive. I've actually had precious little knitting time lately. I do have a few in-progress things to offer up to you, however.

First, I have begun working on my third sweater project. Yes, it's true that I have yet to actually complete a sweater. But I think this one's gonna work out. It might not work out for roughly a hundred years, but eventually, I will have this sweater. Or a picture of myself in my head wearing this sweater...while petting a unicorn.

What I have to show you is my sad little swatch, which I didn't even block. I know; I know. It's terrible. I should've blocked it. But I have convinced myself that it's okay if it's a "little off" in size. This is the kind of thing all knitters do at some point and then warn others about. A swatch, for those non-knitting folk out there, is simply a test square of your pattern so you can see what your gauge is (how much space each stitch takes up, more or less). For my swatch, I did the pattern stitch in size 5 needles (the bottom) and size 4 needles (the top), and ultimately got closer to the pattern's specified gauge with the size 4 needles.

The sweater is the Katharine Hepburn Cardigan from Lace Style, and I'm doing it in Louet Gems Opal, color Caribou. The yarn is normally rather expensive, but after weeks of agonizing about a suitable replacement, I found a great sale on it at Purl Soho. Anyway, I'm pretty pumped about this cardigan, but the cables and lace pattern makes it a bit fiddly--it's not hard by any means, but it's time consuming. This sweater is also knit in pieces and then seamed, so we'll see how that goes. I'm working on the right front piece now; no heart yet for the back. Miles to go.

I am making better progress on my plain stockinette travel socks--I've got one of a pair done in Knit Picks Felici, color Pebble. Jenny's Felici socks have worn really well (she is generally less hard on her clothes though, I think...) and have a less wooly hand than some of my hardwearing socks (is "hand" appropriate here? I have no idea). Anyway, I am not so excited about the brownness of this sock. Now, don't get me wrong; Bolty loves brown. I am generally a conservative dresser ("semi-professional," as described by Jenny) and brown is about as wild as I get for a sweater or pants or shoes. But I like my accessories to have more color. I will, however, happily wear these socks when they're done--I've been able to wear handknit socks most days this winter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Iceman Cometh

Bedecked in my lovely hat, striped scarf, un-blogged flip-top mittens, and beige tweed wool socks, I braved the winter today and lived to tell the tale.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Colin Cloutes Come Home Againe

I changed up the blog design a bit to add Ravelry progress bars (inaccurate for now due to a Top Sekrit Knitting Project) and the Flickr badges (L. is giving up the shop for awhile), and Reader, I am pretty damn irritated. I know just enough about coding to be dangerous, which is to say enough to know that fixing the width of the progress bars and badges to fill the righthand column in a more visually pleasing manner is possible, but not enough to do it myself. Flickr claims that the badges have to be that size, which is probably a lie, but certainly means that no amount of half-assed fiddling on my part will fix that. The Ravelry progress bars, on the other hand, are very customizable*, but despite fairly clear instructions in the Ravelry fora, I am at a loss. I'll figure it out eventually. I'll never be hungry again, etc., etc.

More successful, however, was my latest FO: the Noro Striped Scarf, concept/pattern from Brooklyn Tweed. Apologies for the lameness of the photos, especially considering Brooklyn Tweed's utterly amazing ones. I had plans to take this outside and photograph it pretentiously on a withered tree stump out front, but I wanted to mess about with the settings on my camera to see if I could have any success taking shots indoors and--well, this is very boring, but suffice it to say that I got a few good shots of the cat and merely serviceable ones of the scarf.

The scarf itself, though: love it. It's about seven feet long and 7.5" wide (I cast on 49 instead of 39 to make it a bit wider than Brooklyn Tweed's). The yarn: Noro Silk Garden, colors 8 and 270. There has been, on Ravelry, a pretty ridiculous series of debates about Noro yarns: blah blah blah they tend to be scratchy, thick-and-thin, and full of vegetable matter blah blah blah but it is art blah blah blah blah. I really enjoyed Silk Garden (composition: silk, mohair, wool) for the same reasons everyone does: the saturation of the colors is remarkable, especially the dark blue. I cannot envision myself ever using Silk Garden or Kureyon (pure wool) for a garment for the same reason--the colors--I think it works perfectly on a scarf.

*L. and I have discussed our desire to make macaroni and glitter pictures for Casey.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

desperate times

The plummeting temperature of our apartment has us wondering if we shouldn't abandon our current projects and instead put all our efforts into knitting some gd INSULATION.

Not to dramatize the situation here, but I've literally had to take breaks from typing between these tiny paragraphs to warm up my hands. I guess if I can't actually knit insulation for the apartment, I could do the next best thing and knit some insulation for my mittens.

Or I could abandon absolutely everything and follow the example of one Raveler who posted today about knitting herself a coffin. I bet it would be warm in a knitted coffin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tricot Treat!

That's right, I'm treating you to the very most obvious pun on French knitting vocabulary! Because you know me -- I only deal in superlatives, and lately only the guiltiest superlatives: the longest lunch, the earliest bedtime, the bare minimum and, of course, the last minute.
But there is always time to spare for a bit of knitting, especially if it's the easiest possible knitting, like the tube scarf I'm working on in some yarn I bought at La Droguerie, an amazing yarn store I visited in Paris. That's right, the scarf is literally just a tube. See?
I cast on 70 stitches, joined without twisting, and just took off knitting. I'm a little over halfway finished, having just started on my second of 2 skeins. I'm thrilled with the results and a lot less concerned than I expected to be about the simplicity of the "design." I tried various ribbings but was disgusted by my tension problems. I CANNOT get the first purl stitch of the column to look nice! Luckily it turns out that the yarn requires very little from me in order to look beautiful. It's actually two yarns held together (one a 100% bamboo and one a laceweight mohair), an idea I ripped off from a sample scarf hanging on the wall at the store. The friendly clerk helped me coordinate the colors and wound the two strands together in skeins for me, and I was so pleased by my success in conducting this transaction in French that I hardly noticed the price (27 euros, yikes! If only it were dollars!).

Like I said, the store itself is wonderful. It's in the neighborhood of Les Halles and the Saint Eustache cathedral, and it's pretty big for a French store of its kind, or at least seemed so to me. One side is devoted to yarn and patterns, with all the available colors in each yarn hanging unwound from hooks on the wall. Deeper in is a display counter of buttons, most simple and sophisticated but some very silly. On the other side of the store, they sell beads stored in jars like penny candy and embroidery supplies. When I was there, it was crowded and just past twilight, so I did not take any photos. However, a few days later, I was shopping at Printemps and paid a visit to the Phildar boutique on the top floor of the store, and I can show you that, if from a bit of a distance. I wish American department stores gave as much space to craft supplies.
Finally, I made one other yarn purchase back in Dayton that was just as exciting to me as the ones I made in France: my first skein of handspun yarn, made my the mother of one of my oldest friends. Her website is here. She showed me her spinning wheel, her fiber stash in the attic, and her imposing yarn storage room, barricaded with impenetrable walls of rubbermaid containers. From one such container, I chose a lovely blue and orange wool, which Joe says smells nice and wooly. After a bit of experimenting, I chose the Opera scarf pattern, which blessedly consists of just a single row to memorize. I'm in a race against spring with all this scarf knitting. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Catch Up, Catch All

You know how once you fall out of touch with someone, part of what keeps you from making contact again is the guilt you feel over the initial neglect? Along with the pressure of reporting on months' worth of living in a single and inevitably newsy letter? I guess these are my lame but honest excuses for having abandoned blogging this fall and holiday season...But today, fooling around with Picasa, I found a solution that has once again hoisted me back in the blogging saddle. So I offer you, first, a compilation work-in-progress photo of all the gift knitting I did for this year's birthday and holiday season:

Then, of course, there are the corresponding FOtos (hey, it's my neologism and I'm sticking to it):
Needless to say, each of these gifts has a story and a reason for being just what it is, but I think this time the stories will just have to remain unwritten. Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that the most "special" of all my knitting projects turned out to be Uncle Louie's Orange Hat, which as expected inspired much good cheer and not a few jokes of questionable taste at this year's Christmas party. That photo deserves a blowing up:
If I have half as much fun in 2008 as Uncle Louie is having in this picture, it will be a good year.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Knit One, Kill Two

Our favorite Lois Lane gifted us some lovely sock yarn for Christmas: one skein of Trekking Pro Natura in colorway 1601 and two balls of Zitron Lifestyle in colorway 1876. She also passed along some of the knitting mysteries by Maggie Sefton, which I love without ever having read a page for the spectacular puns in the titles. Needled to Death, people? A Deadly Yarn? Does it get any better than this? No, it does not, Reader. You of all people should know.

I'm sure, however, that your mind has never left the yarn, and I can't say I'm surprised. I was faced with a terrible choice, Reader: which yarn should I choose for the simple sock project that would take my mind off the sweater debacle? If I were a stronger person, I'd have waited until Lilyriver came back from France and let her decide what she wanted, but I, I am sorry to say, am not so good, nor so patient, and I've been eyeing the Zitron Lifestyle for awhile. It did not disappoint. It's a 100% superwash merino sock yarn, and I'm guessing the base yarn is Louet Gems, because it feels just like Koigu. It's just flat-out a pleasure to knit with such a well-spun, elastic yarn. I cast on 64 on 2.5mm dpns, did 5.5" of cuff in 3x1 ribbing and a 2.75" gusset. As you can see, I've finished one sock since Tuesday, and I'm about halfway through the foot on sock #2--I've never knit socks this fast before. Admittedly, this is partly because I've been glued to my Heroes season 1 boxed set, but a lovely, non-splitty yarn really helps. (I broke out the DPNs for the first time in awhile, and I think that for me, DPNs are faster than 2 circs. 2 circs have many other advantages, but I don't think DPNs can be beat in terms of speed.)

The drawbacks: the yardage for the Lifestyle is scant. Not quite Colinette Jitterbug scant, but two balls (100g) total only about 340 yards instead of the more standard 400ish. I had to rip back my first sock and start the toe decreases earlier so I'd be able to make them long enough to accommodate size 10 feet. I finished with maybe 2-3 yards left. Most people would find the yardage just fine, probably, but I like to make the leg part of my socks pretty long. The yarn is thicker than, say, Trekking (100g of Trekking Pro Natura has about 460 yards), and the ball band says you could get away with needles sized 2-4 (US) instead of the usual 0-2 (US), which helps make up for the comparatively little yardage. But that brings me to drawback deux, which is the durability factor. I've mentioned here, I think, that one of my Koigu socks got a hole on the bottom after less than a half dozen wearings and washings. I also knit those on 2.5mm (that's a 1.5 US for non-knitters). (I patched up the hole with some regular wool in the hopes that it would felt, and so far it seems to be working fine.) I tend to be hard on socks, so I'll be watching these to see if the Koigu/Louet Gems hole was a fluke or if I just need to stick with sock yarn that has some nylon in it.

If you want some of this, I'd recommend Astrid's Dutch Obsessions; while she's shipping, naturally, from the Netherlands, she charges $6 a ball instead of $10, and she has all the solid colors of this yarn, which are numerous and not widely distributed in the States.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sweater autopsy

My First Sweater (TM) has turned out to be my Waterloo (a joke that never gets old, right? Right? Hello? Is this thing on?), Reader. I chose the Wicked sweater from Zephyr Style, a top down raglan (I think?) with a boat neck and some cabled details, and I used heathered burgundy Cascade 220. I will admit that I had my doubts about the Cascade 220: it didn't seem all that special to me, but it's cheap and known to be durable. As I used it, I came to appreciate its softness and springiness--I don't think you can go wrong with it. I do still think the donegal tweed version looks stupid. Sorry, Cascade.

This pattern is known to run large, so when my gauge was 20 stitches/4 inches rather than 18 on size 7s, I decided to just go with it. Reader, I can picture you muttering to yourself: Aha! Foreshadowing! This turned out, however, to not be the problem. Neither was it a problem when I realized about halfway through the collar that I'd forgotten to do the twist stitch and decided I didn't care. The problem is that the sweater is terribly unflattering. I've had this confirmed by Lilyriver, who tactfully noted that she thought it was too big. That might be one issue, despite the theoretical 2" of negative ease I thought I'd built in. Issue #2: worried that the sweater would be too small, I didn't do the waist shaping. I have a men's sweater that doesn't have shaping, so I didn't think the waist shaping would make much of a difference here. It may have, but it wouldn't have helped issue #3, which is that worsted-weight yarn and size 7 needles makes for a somewhat bulky knitted fabric. As acknowledging that it's possible that I might only be able to wear fine-gauge sweaters would cause me no small distress, I've decided that the real problem is issue #4: what was supposed to be a boat neck came out like a crew neck. I thought this might happen from some pictures I saw on Ravelry. Since patterns are resized according to a formula and not by reknitting the garment in each projected size, I think the neck doesn't doesn't quite work on the larger sizes. I think a v-neck would have helped the sweater look less bulky and would have given it a little more style.

For now, I'm not going to reknit it. (I actually still have a sleeve and a half left to go.) I'm tired of the yarn and I'm not sure I could fix it enough to make it wearable outside the house. I may eventually go back and experiment with waist shaping.

Happy new year, Reader!