Monday, December 27, 2010

Chop suey

Chop suey. Not bean sprouts and bamboo shoots, but the fearless adventure where I hack up my boyfriend's sweater to complete a variety of needed alterations. Let's go!


One thing I should have told you yesterday is that this picture was taken with the excess fabric pulled back and fastened with a knitting needle. In other words, the sweater is a lot baggier than this, but you can still see the drooping dropped shoulders and the excess length.


Now where are those scissors?

I hacked the just-finished pullover apart yesterday, removing all the body and sleeve side seams and then detaching the sleeves themselves. Next, I addressed a concern voiced by AmyPinSeattle in a blog comment that if I remove two inches on the sides, the sleeves will move up two inches  - and will therefore be too short. She's absolutely right. So I began the surgery by cutting off the sleeve ribbing, knitting another two inches in stockinette, and then finishing off with the three inches of new ribbing. Amazingly, this only took a couple of hours to complete both sleeves. I spritzed the cuffs and let them dry overnight. The sleeves are as good as new.


Now on to the front. Starting about an inch-and-a-half above the ribbing, I snipped off the bottom of the sweater and carefully picked up the live stitches. Next, I started K2P2 ribbing. This time, I'm leaving out the pretty patterning on the ribbing. Other knitters have made this alteration (here's an example); in fact, at least one yarn store owner is instructing her customers to abandon the pattern ribbing to eliminate the bagginess and tunic-like feel. This revision will work better for Tom, I think.


Next steps: finish the front ribbing, do the same for the back, and then it's time to break out the sewing machine. I'll steek the sides and reseam the garment and then, God willing, the pullover will fit perfectly and Tom and I and this sweater will live happily ever after. If you're a praying woman, I'd appreciate you putting in a good word for me. :-)

Meanwhile, I've also been working on the Kaffe Fassett scarf. Goodness, I love this Rowan Felted Tweed for colorwork. The hues blend beautifully in this wooly yarn. My only concern is the stranding and doubled thickness make for an exceptionally thick scarf, somewhat overkill for the moderately cold Mid Atlantic. I've been contemplating making this into an iPad cover instead - wouldn't that be beautiful? My friend gave me a $50 gift certificate for Webs - great gift, huh? I might just buy some more of this lovely yarn to make a fair isle sweater or vest.


But for now, I'm focused on making Chop Suey. Stay tuned for the next course, coming soon to a blog near you.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A too-big Christmas

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas (for those of you who celebrate Christmas). We certainly did - with one exception: Tom's sweater is just too big.

Despite my best efforts, the sweater fits like a tunic rather than a pullover - and dudes like my boyfriend haven't work tunics since the 1500s.


We both like the sweater in principle, but the truth is, if the pullover doesn't fit perfectly, he won't wear it - and it will drive me absolutely crazy. The damn thing is both too big and too long, except for the sleeves which fit perfectly. Because it is a drop-sleeve sweater, the body is essentially two large rectangles with some neck shaping. This makes it a bit easier to alter; at least I don't have to mess with the armscyes. I've given the alterations a lot of thought. Here are my goals:
  1. Make the sweater eight inches narrower.
  2. Make the sweater five inches shorter.
  3. Leave the neckline as it is (it looks really great actually).
  4. Make no changes to the sleeves.
Here is my alteration plan:
  1. Cut apart the side seams and the sleeve seams.
  2. Using my sewing machine, sew a narrow and dense zigzag line two inches in along both sides of the body.
  3. Trim off the extra fabric outside the zigzag line. This will remove approximately eight inches from the width of the sweater.
  4. Reseam the sides and the sleeves.

These alterations will fix the width issue, but not the length. Like I did with my Handstrikket sweater, I plan to cut the sweater about two inches above the ribbing; this will shorten the sweater by five inches. I will then carefully pick up the stitches and then knit down to re-create the ribbing on the now-shorter sweater.




I think this should work. I wish I'd knitted it the correct size to begin with and I thought I did - I blocked it to size but it's just too big on him. I wish there was a controllable way to shrink sweaters but we all know there's not.

So this is my bad news. The good news is that we had a lovely Christmas. We spent the day relaxing, making crab cakes (we're Marylanders after all), playing with our toys, and watching several episodes of Six Feet Under. Even with the oversized sweater, we all had a perfect Christmas.

The boys really spoiled me. Imagine my surprise when I opened Michael's gift: a size 8, 24-inch circular bamboo needle. I couldn't believe it. Michael actually took himself to Michaels and picked out a knitting needle! I would have bet a large skein of cashmere yarn that Michael would never, ever venture into a Michaels store even though it could have been named after him. So his gift was a big surprise.

Tom, my true love, made for a great Santa, too. He gave me a 64 GB iPad AND a new watch that I'd been eyeing for three or four years but couldn't justify buying. Isn't he something? I knew the iPad was coming my way but he really surprised me with the watch.


All in all, I feel very blessed and very loved - and this is the very best Christmas present of all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm cute... how about you?

Ample women unite!

The time is now, girls. I'm cute... how about you?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And now for my next trick...

Echoing Bullwinkle, I heartily say: and now for my next trick...


No squirrel coming out of my hat, but I did cast on last night for the Kaffe Fassett Lidiya Scarf featured on the cover of Rowan 48. Designed by the master of colorwork, this beautiful scarf warrants zero changes - save one. I'm not messing with the yarn or the colors, but I am making my scarf two-thirds the size of the original design. With my short neck and the wrap's inherent bulkiness, I need a narrower scarf.


I don't know about you, but with the holidays fast approaching, I'm having a heck of a time working. I want to curl up with a thousand episodes of Boardwalk Empire, Southland, and Big Love and have myself a Kaffe Fassett knitting fest. Alas, I have a meeting today and one on Christmas Eve, and a giant backlog, too. Oh, to be rich and retired...


Monday, December 20, 2010

Whew!

My Christmas knitting is now officially over. Thank goodness! I finished everything on time and within budget.

Last night, I wrapped up these easy Susie's Reading Mitts for my friend, Elizabeth. The pattern calls for a DK weight yarn, but I made the smallest size using Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran and size 5 needles. They turned out perfectly. I really like this yarn for mittens; it's thick, soft, durable, lovely. Elizabeth requested black mitts, which means she needs to take them directly out of my house before Moose's dog hair falls like snow upon them. I have a very clean home, but pug hair magnetically, magically moves to black.


Monica loves these mitts - how could she not given how well everything coordinates with her hair and eye color?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Houston...

Houston, we have a sweater! Tom's Beagle Pullover is completely complete - and six whole days before Christmas, too. Whew. It took me five weeks to finish this - why did it feel like 15? I guess it's always that way.





I really love it... I hope he does, too. Tom is getting his pullover Christmas morning. I'll post pictures of the man in the sweater then.

As always, I'll do some lessons learned from this sweater soon. Thanks for all the support, girls - I couldn't have done this without you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas knitting

For today's post, when I say Christmas knitting, I don't mean the presents I'm making for my loved ones. Instead, I'm going to share some of my favorite knitted holiday decorations, both present and past.

To begin, the project I want to make most for next Christmas is this adorable Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Designed by Morgen Dämmerung, the Good Grief pattern was published yesterday so it's definitely not going to debut this year. But I'm definitely making this adorable little tree to fondly remember one of my favorite television shows ever. Didn't Morgen do a wonderful job?



Next, check out a decoration that dons my Christmas tree as we speak. I've always loved popcorn and cranberry garland, but it makes a mess and takes longer than you'd think to string together these two foodstuffs. So last year, I whipped up this Crocheted and Bejeweled Popcorn and Cranberry Garland. My only regret is that I didn't make it 4000 feet long so it could wrap about my tree a gazillion times. But it's very cute and adds a bit of sparkle to the tree, too.


And of course, there's the menorah pillow I made recently. Read more about this project in this earlier blog post.


I've made dozens of little stocking ornaments for friends over the past few years. I've knitted these wee stockings with stripes, stars, fair isle designs, and even a Jewish star (for the same gal pal for whom I made the menorah pillow actually). This terrific free pattern, available from Little Cotton Rabbits, provides a great way to learn to knit socks, too.


Last year, I adapted this pattern to make my sister a little stocking in honor of her pug, Jett. He's an adorable black pug cousin to my beloved Moose. I should publish this little pattern and make one for Moose, too - maybe next year.


Speaking of Moose, here he is as a cute little puppy swathed in a cute little Christmas sweater. God, he hated this pullover! I improvised the design by marrying together a fair isle Christmas stocking and a dog sweater pattern. Moose wore this for two and a half seconds before shaking it off and promptly outgrowing it. At least I have this picture to remember them both by.


I've got a couple of more days of knitting to do and then I'll be finished with my Christmas presents. I hope your holiday knitting is winding down, too. I know we're all ready to settle down for a long winter's nap!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A picture paints a thousand words times three

Too busy to talk, but here's what I'm up to:

1. Decorated the tree and the rest of the apartment (the walls aren't bare, but this shot sure makes it look that way).


2. Talked to the pets - see Moose's boredom and Monica's little ears?

3. Finished, washed, and blocked Tom's Christmas present, the Beagle pullover in Ultra Alpaca. The only thing left to do is the neckband and seaming. Now I'm just waiting for the sweater pieces to dry.

4. Started the Susie's Reading Mitts for my friend, Elizabeth. Grace of God, they're a quick knit. I'll show you pics when they're done.

Gotta run. Hope your hectic holiday hell is better than mine.  :-)  Talk to you soon...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The color of false optimism

Pantone, the world authority on color, breathlessly announces the 2011 Color of the Year: "Energizing Honeysuckle Lifts Spirits and Imparts Confidence to Meet Life's Ongoing Challenges." In capital letters no less!


I like the pink; everyone in the world looks great in pink, me especially. :-)  But this insistence on excessive optimism is a bit much to take in this terrible economic downturn and crazy-ass world.

Pantone also released a palette of other hip colors, all of which look too bright and cheery for my taste. Exotic Journey? I think not! All of these hues could stand a big dose of testosterone. They look like the yarn you would buy to make granny square baby blanket.
Meanwhile, I'm stressed out of my mind. Sixteen days until Christmas which means 14 days before Tom's sweater needs to be done (washing, blocking, and seaming must be completed before Santa comes, too). I'm halfway up the front and have finished the back and sleeves. I knit like crazy but it feels slow going; I can't wait until it's done. I need to knit a pair of mitts done before Christmas, too plus my business is busier than hell. That's good news, but I wish things were more relaxed so that I could be more relaxed.

I know I'm not alone. Stress abides in abundance in December and you're probably feeling it, too. Hang in there, girl. This, too, shall pass - and then we'll be on to a long, cold, dark winter. As Pantone tells us, there is much to look forward to.

Friday, December 3, 2010

You can judge a book by its cover

There's been a lot of grumbling and grimmacing on Ravelry's Ample Knitters board about the upcoming release of Perfectly Plus, a new plus-size knitting book to be released this month by DRG Publishing and House of White Birches.


Much of the griping has to do with the cover photo, which features a chevron vest. As one woman writes,
Uh, are the patterns like the picture on the cover, which makes the model appear to have no boobs or waist? And also looks pretty much exactly like an afghan my mother crocheted in the 70s?
She has a point.

A few weeks later, on the same Ravelry board, someone again excitedly reported that a new plus-size knitting book will soon be published. This book's name? Perfectly Plus - the same damn book, but this one comes with a much more attractive cover.


Did the publisher suddenly change artwork because of all the negative Ravelry comments? Or did the editors decide they didn't like the chevron vest picture either? Regardless, I think they've made a better choice. 


Perfectly Plus includes nine designs. Most are pretty elementary sweaters, as shown below. These are my two favorite patterns, but I tend to like classic cardigans and pullovers. Many on Ravelry think the offerings are pretty lackluster, but I'm going to buy the book anyway. I want to support any company that supports ample knitters, plus I could see making either of these sweaters someday.



Interestingly, Interweave has also changed covers on its upcoming plus-size knitting book, aptly called Knitting Plus. Interweave released the original cover, shown on the left, but later replaced it with the blue sweater photo.


An earnest, hard-working MBA student could write a thesis on book cover selection for the plus-size market. That's a long, boring paper I'd actually like to read, but I'm in marketing and such things fascinate me anyway.

Therefore, I'd love to know: which of these covers do you prefer? Post a response here if you have opinions regarding these book covers.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Celebrating Thanksgiving and a birthday, too

I had the very best Thanksgiving ever. Ever! But honestly, this happens every year. My family does one thing absolutely right and that one thing is Thanksgiving.

We all love it so much that nearly everyone on my dad's side of the family shows up every year to talk too loud, eat too much, sip some wine, and simply have a terrific time. All this and no presents, too. Just a fine focus on family, celebrating new brides and babies, connecting with cousins, and remembering the others who have gone before us. My favorite part of the whole day was hanging with my Facebook friends AKA my teenaged nephews and cousins. So much fun. Here I am with two of the boys, Cameron and Avery.


This year, my aunts and I collaborated on a special project. Susie, the generous donor, asked me to whip up a design for some aprons. I found this great photo of my grandma cooking Thanksgiving dinner in 1962. Isn't she beautiful? The caption reads: Ruth's Girls - great cooks make great cooks. I created the artwork and got them printed at Zazzle.com.


All of the female family members got one. Here are my cousin Caroline and my aunts, Amy, Susie, and Christa adorned in their aprons.

Thanksgiving Day was also my beloved's birthday. To celebrate his big day, I always make Tom dark chocolate fudge like his mother used to make. I also got him the HBO's The Pacific DVDs (like every other man I know, he's obsessed with World War II) and a book about Ghoulardi, this crazy horror movie host who haunted Ohio television back in the day. Tom seemed pleased with his birthday gifts, but was mostly happy having his cute kid, Michael, join us for Thanksgiving.




Now we trudge on to Christmas. I'm making good progress on Tom's Beagle sweater. It's a very easy knit and beautiful in the Ultra Alpaca. Still, I can't wait until it's finished so I can go back to knitting my fabulous Kathy Zimmerman Early Bird Special Cardigan. I think about this project every day, but I can't do a thing about it until my Christmas knitting is finished.


Sigh... I can't believe this long four-day weekend is almost over. Tomorrow it's back to work and full steam ahead into the holidays. But I am grateful to have had a lovely Thanksgiving. I sure hope you did, too.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A very happy amigurumi Thanksgiving to you

Today we're celebrating Thanksgiving Japanese style. No, we're not having sushi and saki. Instead, we celebrate a vertible smorgasborg of amigurumi. Let's start with an absolutely adorable Indian maiden and her papoose.

Indian Maiden
Now let's add some happy pilgrims. They should be happy because those Indians saved their hungry butts. These look like very well fed pilgrims... they must be my ancestors. :-)
Portly Pilgrims
What's for dinner? No matter what you want to make for your big meal, amigurumi offers a complete menu of culinary options.


Veggie Platter

The Ultimate Turkey
Potato

Corn

Peas
Bread


Apple Pie

Coffee and Tea

Pumpkin Pie
What's missing? Candied sweet potatoes, but I don't like them anyway. And my grandmother's Tidewater Creamed Onions, the main reason I show up for Thanksgiving every year (not true, but those onions are just delicious).

I'll end by telling you two things for which I am grateful. First, I am thankful that my beloved boyfriend, Tom, was born into this world 56 years ago today. Happy birthday, honey - I'm so glad you're here.

Tom cooking Thanksgiving dinner - 2008
And second, I am thankful for YOU. Thank you for showing up and reading my missives no matter how long or silly. I am so grateful to join you in this ultimate online knit-a-long. Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends - and my British one, too.  :-)