Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ta da! August Augusta in August

Today is August 31 and I've finished the August Augusta in August. Just in time since today's the last day of the month. I'm posting these crappy pictures; I'll get some better ones taken soon, and next time, I'll avoid the baggy t-shirt and take some pics with the cardigan buttoned, too. But you can at least get the drift. I'm happy with the finished product and am grateful that this sweater took me only five weeks to complete. May every other sweater I ever make go as quickly!

Like I've done with my other sweaters, I'll do a complete lesson learned soon. Until then, thanks for all the support, especially to Kathy Zimmerman who is teaching me so well to make garments that actually fit.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Button time

Okay, now I can say that I'm really, really almost done with the Augusta. All that remains to finish are the plackets, buttonholes, and buttons.

I should be finished tonight, and then what shall I do???? Hmmm... so many knitting projects, so little time. I should probably start on Tom's Christmas sweater. Or maybe that other project I want to make from New England Knits, the Melrose Peacoat.Or maybe a smaller, instant gratification effort first? Like this gorgeous Rowan Lidiya scarf I just spent a gazillion dollars on? To find out, as they say in 12 Step programs, keep coming back!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Four down, one to go

I'm a lean, mean knitting machine!

Well, I'm certainly neither lean nor mean, but I am making great progress on the Augusta. I've finished the two sleeves, back, and now the right front. Tonight I cast on for the left front and look diligently for the end of this (sweater) tunnel.

Actually, this project has come together very quickly. Maybe it's the aran yarn or maybe it's because I studiously engineered this garment beforehand. Knitting is just implementation now. I'm not improvising in any regard; I knit what I planned and miracle of miracle, it works! This time, I'm not going to have to reknit half the sweater like I did with my Handstrikket. Nope, this one is going from needles to my shoulders in one quick swoop.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The august Augusta in August

The Augusta knitted in August is august! Here are pics of the blocked pieces I've completed thus far, as well as the sea glass buttons I'm planning to use. I found some other metal buttons but these sea glass ones are better. They look organic somehow and the Berroco Peruvia does, too, even if it's not.

I wish the color would show up correctly in my photos, but it never does so I'm showing you the yarn swatch again. I've got to buy a new camera one of these days; if I would stop buying yarn, I could afford one!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back off!

Back off! The needles!

I finished the Augusta back - and sleeves for that matter - and all are now blocked.

I'm knitting from the bottom up so I can't tell if it fits yet, but the pieces all match exactly my planned measurements. Speaking of fit, note the back neck shaping. The original pattern doesn't include this shaping, but my guru Kathy Zimmerman says back neck shaping creates a notch that makes the sweater fit nicely through the shoulders and upper torso. Apparently magazine editors often delete this fitting technique to make sweaters easier for new knitters, but Kathy says I should put them in my sweaters whenever possible.

Back neck shaping isn't possible in round yoke sweaters, but it does help to add short rows on the back neck. When I reknitted the Handstrikket, I added neck short rows and I can definitely tell the difference in terms of fit.

The fronts commence this evening. I am so grateful this project is moving along quickly. After spending nearly six months knitting and reknitting the Handstrikket, the Augusta feels like a cool breeze in August. And after this dreadfully hot summer, God knows I need one!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More with Kathy Zimmerman

On Saturday, I hiked back to Ligonier, PA for another Kathy Zimmerman class, this time on lace knitting. Our task: to knit the irritating-as-hell Ballet Lace Scarf from Fiesta Yarns.

I've tangled with lace before, always enduring crushing defeats. This time is sadly no exception. I've started the damn thing 18 times and still can't get past the first pattern repeat without screwing something up. Part of the problem is the alpaca and tencel Ballet yarn. The alpaca is okay but the tencel is slippery and the blend is just splitty as hell.

I refuse to accept defeat; I'm not going to stop until I master this damn technique. But first I'm going to change the yarn and then I'm going to work on this well before midnight when I can barely keep my eyes open. Here's a picture of what the scarf should look like; this knitter also had trouble but got through it - hopeful evidence of possible success.

However, my main reason for trekking to PA was to get Kathy's feedback about my upcoming projects. I showed her my Augusta cardigan from New England Knits and modeled the perfectly fitting sleeves she so capably taught me how to size. She was proud and I was prouder!

I'm now about halfway up the back. As I mentioned previously, I decided to cable the entire back to avoid knitting miles and miles of plain stockinette. It's still pretty boring though. Hopefully tonight I'll be able to start decreasing for the upper back and things will move more quickly.

Next, I wanted Kathy's input on another New England Knits sweater, the Melrose Peacoat, also designed by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. Using the skills I've learned from Kathy Zimmerman, I am:
  •  Reworking the sweater to my size and shape, adding additional ease so that I can wear this as a coat.
  • Modifying the pattern to make an A-line shape to accommodate my more-than-ample hips.
  • Using four sets of buttons instead of three to account for the additional length - I don't do cropped anything!
  • Skipping the snowflake pattern on the back - for me, less is usually more.
  • Knitting the left and right fronts to be the same size rather than making one of the panels narrower. I want to avoid the dreaded belly gape.
  • Adding back neck shaping because Kathy says this is key to getting a good fit.

I showed my plans to Kathy and she blessed my design. I'm looking forward to knitting this with the heavenly Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande. Besides being beautiful, this bulky yarn knits up on size 10 needles - hopefully a very fast knit.

One more new little project to discuss this morning: my new shawl. This wrap will be for everyday use; during the cooler months, I'm always cold and need something around my shoulders when I'm working or knitting. I've been looking at shawls for months, ever since I got together with Chris, my college roommate and fellow knitter, who made the gorgeous Everyday Shawl.  I've decided to knit Nancy Bush's Tasha Tudor Shawl using some - gasp! - stash yarn. (I'm making a major dent in that stash these days. I feel so virtuous!) I'm making this warm wonder in my favorite Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Denim Mix. My shawl shares the same garter stitch and applied lace border as Chris', but it's triangular rather than square which will reduce the knitting time, especially since I need to make mine larger.

My only regret: I wish I was independently wealthy. If I were, I'd travel the world visiting yarn shops, buy all the yarn I want, knit in every one, and then blog all about it. What a wonderful life that would be.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A chulo chullo

I'm feeling a little chulo this morning. According to UrbanDictionary.com, chulo means "someone who is cute, hot, good looking." I'm not owning up to cute and good looking parts (especially since I haven't even showered yet today), but I am hot and everyone else in the Mid Atlantic is, too: DC will reach 100 degrees today.

I'm also feeling a little chullo this morning after whipping up a baby version of this classic Andean hat. My cousin Seth and his wife, Jeanne, are the proud parents of Lexi, who, if she follows the Matthews genetic tradition, will look glorious in a bright red hat.

Moose patiently allowed me to let photograph him with the chulo chullo perched atop his head. What a good dog.

I used the Teo Hat pattern by Ana Sancho Rumeu. Besides being free, it is easy and fast - I whipped up this little hat in a couple of hours. I raided my stash for the yarn - shocking but true! - and found some Berroco Comfort Chunky in Primary Red. This yarn makes for a soft, washable hat, perfect for a baby.

Or even a patient pug. :-)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Judy's birthday hat

Over the weekend, I whipped up a cute little stranded hat for my old friend and birthday girl, Judy. You will be proud of me; instead of buying new yarn, I dug through my giant stash and dug out two worsted yarns that work well together. Best of all, the colors harken back to irises, Judy's favorite flower. The darker plum: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in color 014. The lighter purple: Valley Yarns Stockbridge in Soft Grape, color 56990.

This project ended up being cost-free because I used the free pattern, Opus Spicatum, from Kelbourne Woolens. Kate Gagnon Osborn designed this beret for the delicious Road to China Worsted but I was stash busting, as you know. One of these days I'm going to make something gorgeous from one of Kelbourne's stunning yarns.

I hope Judy likes the hat. I'm a little worried because Tom, the beloved bf, turned his nose up at it saying he'd never wear it. No kidding, Tom. I would never make this for you - unless you keep up the snarkiness. Then I'll be sure to knit up a crazy hat as your just reward. Plum and lilac would look lovely on you. :-)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Augusta back and buttons

The august August Augusta continues. I started the back last night with a major mod. The original back is plain stockinette, but I'm cabling mine. After spending months reknitting the Handstrikket with nothing but boring brown stockinette, I have a moral obligation to rescue myself from abject tedium. Plus the cables will give me additional vertical lines that will hopefully be becoming. Note I'm not saying slimming because I'm just not that optimistic of a human being. :-)

I've been on a constant quest for green buttons. It's tough out there. If you want white, gold, black, or silver buttons,  you're good to go. But green? Not so much. If I don't find anything better, I'm going to use these neat sea glass buttons I found from Swept from the Seas Design on Etsy. I wish they were a little bigger, but they'll work.

Should I tell you again how excited I am about this sweater? It's the first time I've taken a commercial pattern and rewrote it using all of my own measurements rather than just the bust and hip size. I'm anxious to see how much better a fit I will get. I'm shocked by the sleeves, for example. You may remember that the Handstirkket had tremendously wide sleeves. The Augusta's sleeves seem svelte in comparison. I was really worried they wouldn't fit, but they're perfect. Now if I can just get a cardigan body to sew them on to.

I will blog about the strategy and approach I'm using to re-create this sweater in the next day or two. Suffice to say I'm a walking Einstein executing a big sweater experiment. We'll see if I can prove out my hypothesis with the august August Augusta.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Knitting needle storage solutions

An admission: I own a gazillion knitting needles. Literally. In my quest for the perfect needle, I've bought a ton of them, including four interchangeable sets: Denise, Boye Needlemaster, Knit Picks Harmony Wood, and Knit Picks Nickel Plated. Frankly, I don't like any of them. I hate the joins between the needles and the cord, plus the yarn always snags and the needles come loose. (Maybe I still don't have the right set; Teresa loves the Knit Picks Acrylics and I've heard nothing but wonderful about the Addis.) But despite my disdain,  I still use them all the time because it's so easy to quickly get the right needle size with the right cord length.

The good thing about Denise and Boye sets is that they come with their own cases. Knit Picks sends its needles out in really lousy plastic zipper bags. I spent weeks in quest of a better case and found this carry-all on sale at Joann Fabrics. It's not perfect, but it keeps the needles sorted and allows me to store all of my Knit Picks needles by size.

Besides all these interchangeable needles, I've got a ton of other circular, DPNs, and straight needles. I've never found a good storage solution for these until now. I bought a Shimano fishing lure binder with extra pages from a hunting and fishing store online. It's perfect. There's a recloseable 3-ring bag for each size, and it all zips up into a nice little package.

This terrific binder still doesn't solve my problem about knowing which needle sizes I already own. I've tried Ravelry's knitting needle inventory feature. (If you haven't found this, it's under My Notebook.) I know this should work but it doesn't because the needles that show up on my inventory never seem to be in my binder. I need RFID for my needles - and yarn, too. (For the uninitiated -  which you probably all are - RFID, or radio frequency identification, is used by large retailers to track inventory through the use of radio waves. Sure beats counting everything by hand.)

By the way, see the little square thing in this picture? I bought it from Kathy Zimmerman's shop. It's an Addi 4-inch gauge; you knit your swatch, lay this little device on top, and get a perfect gauge count. No more fooling around with rulers and trying to accurately count your rows and stitches. What a simple but revolutionary idea. The gadget also features a needle gauge but the holes are only in milimeters; I wish it also provided US needle sizes.

Finally, a quick update on the Augusta. I finished the second sleeve last night. What a quick knit! Tonight I'm starting on the back. I figured I'll knit it next and work out any bugs before starting on the fronts. I'm really digging this sweater. Can't wait to see how it all turns out.