Monday, November 30, 2009

Half a pair of slipper socks and a bunch of white stockinette stitch

While I should be focusing on finishing the Lace Inset Pullover that I want to wear for Christmas, I'm waylaid by 400 little projects that I plan to give as holiday presents.

Despite my dislike for knitting two of anything, I decided to make a pair of Arwen Slipper Socks for my friend, Sharon. Her mother, well into her ninth decade, died a couple of years ago leaving behind a mountain of yarn. My kind of woman! Sharon kindly gave me the bag of blue yarn - there was apparently a bag of every color of the rainbow. Since then, I've wanted to make her something with her mom's yarn. Hopefully she'll wear these cute Arwen slipper socks and remember her mother fondly - and me, too!

Note that I wimped out and skipped the Kitchener stitch for the toe. I just threaded the yarn tail through the remaining stitches. It works fine - but one of these days, I've got to take the time to figure out grafting.

Hey, check out this photo of the yarn label. Apparently Sharon's mom only paid 77 cents for 200+ yards of worsted wool yarn! Can you imagine? Cascade 220 on a good day costs $7.00 a skein. I'd love to know when she bought this yarn - but this pic provides empirical evidence of the exorbitant inflation rate on wool yarn!

I've got two black and red hats in my queue, both for Michael, my boyfriend's 17-year-old son. One is the Lusekofte Cap by Charlene Schurch, a traditional Norwegian ski hat. It will match the one I made for his dad earlier this year. The other is the helmet liner shown in my previous post. I ought to be able to gut these out in the next couple of weeks.

And just so you can see that I am in my spare time working on the pullover, here's a photo of the mega-boring back which is nothing but miles and miles of stockinette. No wonder I'm distracted by short-term, quick-gain projects! Will I get this done by December 20, the date of my family's Christmas celebration? Hmmm... maybe not. Just in case, I ordered a pretty white blouse from Ulla Popken using my Cyber Monday discount. Better safe than sorry. If worse comes to worst, I'll be wearing the new white sweater in January.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving and more

Happy Thanksgiving! This year, I'm grateful I had such a wonderful celebration with my family. I come from the Dysfunctional Family From Hell (don't we all?), so this isn't always a given. But this year we had a glorious day full of food and fun.

I picked Thanksgiving to debut my Diamond Yoke Cardigan. As always, I was tremendously afraid that my cardigan looked homemade instead of handmade. As it turned out, all the women knew I'd made it because they know I knit, and all the men thought I'd bought it because they don't. Success!

I was also self-conscious about wearing a cardigan that is so form-fitting. I usually wear baggy sweaters with zero shaping, so this tight cardigan felt so... wrong. Who was I to be wearing something that didn't cover everything? But now that I see the pics, what I see are curves. Not just lumps and rolls but curves. Who knew?

So all in all, I'm pleased my new handmade cardigan and my homey Thanksgiving Day. I am grateful both for my whack-job family of origin and my lovely family of choice: my boyfriend, Tom, and his son, Michael. I am richly blessed - and I hope you are, too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charity Knitting: Helmet Liner

Every few months, I do a bit of charity knitting. I'm always making gifts for people I know; charity knitting allows me to make gifts for people I don't know! Plus it's good for my soul and karma, too.

I worked up this helmet liner after reading about the Packages From Home Helmet Liner Project on Ravelry. Bonnie Long, of Knit Wits, created this ingenious hat that is knitted in one piece without a single seam (Teresa, are you paying attention?). You begin by making an upside-down turtleneck and then dividing the stitches to make the hat. To finish, you pick up stitches around the face opening and knit an inch of ribbing. It is fast and fun. But most of all, it will keep a soldier warm and dry so he or she can protect our country from harm.

Because this project went so well, I'm going to make another one for my boyfriend's 17-year-old son, Michael. This great kid, much to my chagrin and constant harping, just got a motorcycle - one of those obnoxious, super-fast bikes that kids zoom in and out of traffic with, risking the lives and limbs of themselves and other people, too. I HATE THOSE DAMN THINGS. I expressed my views to Tom and Michael and every single one of my friends - to no avail. I guess I'm supposed to learn the lesson of acceptance because nothing I'm going to say or do will change a damn thing. He's got that awful bike. Now all I can do it pray.

Anyway, I'm going to knit Michael a helmet liner out of Knit Picks merino wool - very soft and warm. Tom's only complaint about the military version (which he so kindly models in these pictures) is that the wool is so itchy - but that's what the project requires. Michael's version will be softer and in black and red to match that damnable motorcycle.

I encourage you to support the Packages From Home Helmet Liner Project. Download the free pattern; it only takes 175 yarns of wool yarn in black, brown, tan, olive drab, or charcoal. You know you've got an extra skein in your stash somewhere! Support the troops even if you don't support the war - my sentiments exactly.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A catalog of cast-ons

Wow, I had no idea there are so many ways you can cast-on a knitting project. I started my journey this morning watching a video about cable cast-ons and soon found a gazillion other options. I need a cast-on catalog! So here goes.

Knitted Cast-On: If you already know how to knit, this is a great way for beginners to cast-on.

Long-Tail Cast-On: The ubiquitous, multi-purpose way to start knitting.

Cable Cast-On: Works well when you need a row that doesn't have a lot of give or stretch - like for a buttonhole.

Rib Cable Cast-On: Similar to the cable cast-on, this method is perfect for 1x1 ribbing.

Provisional Cast-On: A means to create cast-on stitches that can be easily removed later so you can pick up the stitches and keep knitting. My favorite way to do this is with a crocheted chain.

Estonian Cast-On: I actually learned this method from Nancy Bush last summer at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. What a great class! And what a great cast-on for socks.

Channel Island Cast-On: This method gives you a pretty, tricot-like edging.

German Twisted Cast-On: Perfect for situations where you need a stretchy cast-on, like for socks or a neck opening. This is my personal favorite.

Italian or Tubular Cast-On: Looks complicated! But apparently gives a very stretchy edge as well.

Turkish Cast-On: A very fast and simple means to cast-on for socks.

Mobius Cast-On: Cat Bordhi calls this a magical cast-on and she's right! Complete with double-rings of knitting and triangles and train tracks and much more, she uses this cast-on for mobius knitting.

Do you know of a cast-on method that is not listed here? Please let me know and I'll add it to this list. One can never have too much love, too many shoes, or too many ways to cast-on!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recovering ugly ducklings

Unblocked knitting is an ugly duckling: plain, unfinished, disappointing, homely - and worst of all - homey! I don't want to knit things that look homemade - I want to knit things that look handmade.

I always feel let down and uninspired by my finished knitting projects. They never look the way I've envisioned. But I wash and block them anyway, hoping against hope that somehow they will redeem themselves.

And they always do! After blocking, my fowl baby fowl blossom into beautiful swans. Or at least more beautiful swans.

Meet my recovering ugly duckling mitts. Despite my despair, they became swans, turning out better than I hoped. They're quite pretty little things, aren't they?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

White yarn, cont'd.

Fields of white everywhere I look - white yarn that is!

White yarn project 1: Veyla mitts. I finished them last night. Maybe they'll look better when they're done blocking, but at the moment they remind me of a cranky, wet cat. I had a hell of a time with the left mitt, as I described in my previous post. I'm still not satisfied with the southpaw, even after tearing out and reknitting the thumb and the garter ribbing at the top. And then during washing, one of the buttons dissolved - I'll need to get a new one from the Etsy seller. Hopefully I'll be happier when they're dry. We'll see.

My next lace project will be the Willoughby wrap done in the same white yarn as the mitts: Karabella Margrite. I'm going to swatch a bit first though and see how I like it. I hope the shawl will go better than the mitts. Maybe I'm not cut out for lace knitting. My mind wanders all over the place and when it comes back, I'm lost. Of course, this may well be a sign that I need to better focus my mind - stop ruminating and pay attention! Living totally in the moment is never easy for me. Perhaps I can use lace knitting as a meditation on meditation.

Before I start the Willoughby, I'm making Jillian Moreno's Miracle Lace Inset Pullover from Curvy Knits Volume 2. I've substituted the yarn again (will I ever learn?) but only after seeing Pokeystackle's even more beautiful version of this sweater on Ravelry. She made this lovely garment with Classic Elite Wool Bam Boo, which I am using, too.

I needed to upsize this sweater to a 65-inch bust size, so I decided this time to re-create the pattern in Sweater Wizard using my measurements. I'm hoping this will prove to be an effective way to resize published patterns. This pullover is a very simple shape so I felt comfortable replicating it. So far, so good. We'll see if this works. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Veyla left mitt debacle

Grumble, grumble, grumble! To say that I am frustrated with my Veyla mitts project is an understatement.

I happily finished the right mitt - beautiful even unblocked and just as I imagined. I'm waiting for these terrific antique buttons to arrive from Bumbershoot, an Etsy seller; I think they'll be the just-right accompaniment for these lacy gloves.

Heartened by my success with the first mitt, I soldiered on to the left one. Wouldn't you think the second one would go much faster and easier because I'd mastered the first? Wrong. I've started and frogged this bastard tadpole literally six times and I'm still stuck in the pond.
The problem? Actually, I think there are a few of them:
  1. Because the mitts are mirror images of each other, the lace pattern is completely different on each mitt.
  2. On the right mitt, you knit the first four set-up rows and then knit rows 1 through 9 of the lace cuff pattern. Then you repeat rows 2 through 9 seven times (for the larger size anyway). However, on the left mitt, you knit the first four set-up rows (which are a little different than the right mitt) and then knit rows 1 though 9 of the lace pattern, and then repeat rows 1 through 8 seven times. Those minor differences make a huge difference in the outcome.
  3. There is some confusion about lace pattern rows that begin with "bind off 3, k2." When you do this, the stitch left on your right needle after the three bind-offs is considered the first knit stitch of the k2. Does that make sense? In other words, it should probably read "bind off 3, k1." That would make more sense to me anyway.
  4. Another problem: there are apparently two versions of the PDF pattern available, version 1.1 and version 1.2. I have no idea which version I have and have spent over an hour trying to determine the difference between the two to no avail.
BTW, I'm not alone with this left mitt issue. Several other folks have experienced trouble on the left mitt, too. (Read this Ravelry post as one example.)
Perhaps the left mitt would be less problematic for me if I was a more accomplished graph reader. I was going to practice reading the graph while making the left mitt but it's been so difficult I've resorted back to the text instructions. I am exceptionally visual so usually I prefer graphs, but not in this case.
I am going to give these beauties one more try. I don't want to my Veylas to succumb to the Glass Slipper Syndrome - making one of a matched set and losing steam on the second. Glass Slipper Syndrome applies to gloves and socks, too. In fact, I've got a singleton sock floating around in my knitting basket right now begging for its mate. Not likely to happen though. Perhaps someone would like a woman's pink and purple sock to use as a Christmas stocking?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Now that I'm post-sweater, I'm working on a bunch of little things - and it's definitely a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Let's start with the good. I'm toiling away on Veyla mittens, a Ysolda pattern. I'm using beautiful Karabella Margrite yarn - cream, of course! I can barely stand to buy anything that's not white or cream. It's ridiculous. Anyway, the yarn is 80% merino, 20% cashmere and is mega-yummy. I really like how these mittens are turning out; even unblocked I like the lace. I'm making these as a training mission for Jared Flood's Willoughby wrap.

Now for the bad. I really, really wanted to make Sue McCain's Top-Down Empire Waist Pullover. I think it's a beautiful pattern. I even splurged on beautiful Blue Sky Alpaca Silk yarn in Blush - which as you can see is mightly close to cream! I've started this project four times and I just hate it. It's likely yet another case of yarn substitution disaster. Sue McCain made hers in a bamboo blend, but I thought the Alpaca Silk would be better. Clearly not. Maybe this sweater would work with the Karabella Margrite? Maybe so. Anyway, I'm abandoning this ship at least until I can find a better yarn - like maybe the one that was recommended to begin with?

Finally, the ugly. My cousin, Sarah just got an adorable basset hound named Porterhouse. I've been promising to knit her something for months, but because she lives in North Carolina, most knitted garments are out - she'd never be able to wear a hat down there, for instance. So I decided to make her a basset hound pillow. What was in my head didn't end up on the pillow unfortunately. I'm a pretty accomplished stranded color knitter, but this project SUCKS. I clearly need to practice intarsia which is a completely different skill from Fair Isle. I'm not redoing it because I've made her wait for months as it is. But I don't like it. I'm sending it off with the admonishment that it's the thought that counts. Hopefully she'll like it anyway.

I'm spending most of my free time thinking about which sweater to tackle next. I've got more yarn than anyone should ever own and a thousand patterns, too. I'll be back soon with my decision.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The most dreaded question in all of Knittingdom

I wore my Ditto cardigan for the first time today. Although I finished it this summer, it's finally cool enough here to warrant a sweater. I've been waiting for the right day - and frankly for the courage - to wear my creation out into the world.

I watched people's eyes. Did they notice the neckline, which could really use another couple of inches? Or the little space on the front band that longs for an extra sewing stitch? Or that the cardigan is really big on me, mostly because my gauge was off?

To put it another way, I walked around all day waiting for the most dreaded question in all of Knittingdom: "Did you make your sweater?"

I am happy, proud, and relieved to report that no one ever asked. In fact, like most 50-year-old, fat white women in the suburbs, I went completely unnoticed. Which makes me wonder: when and how did I grow so old that people - especially men - stopped looking at me? When did I become invisible? And is this a good thing or a bad one?

Probably both. Frankly, it's a relief to go out without mascara. I don't feel the need to be beautiful all the time - or even most of the time. I can just be me, take it or leave it. Whatever. I'm 50. I have nothing to prove. It's all down hill from here. And most of the time, that's okay by me.

This all leads me to one of my favorite sayings: Don't worry about what people think of you because most of the time they don't. Ain't it the truth?! I grew up in a family of narcissists - you'd think I'd already know this, but sometimes I forget. No one's worried about me but me.

The knitting corollary? Don't worry about what people think of your creations because usually they don't.

Except on Ravelry. And my blog. So thank you for reading and paying attention to my handmade sweaters. :-)