Monday, May 31, 2010

Handstrikket sleeve redux

I've spent much of my long Memorial Day weekend working on my Handstrikket sleeve. To recap, I made this cardigan only to discover that it was way too large, including its Kareem Abdul Jabbar arms.

After consulting with a LYS owner, I chopped the Handstrikket apart and started reknitting it from the top down.

I finished the new sleeve yesterday and I LOVE how it fits. Such a huge difference, no pun  intended! I'm not sure you can tell much from the pictures, but here are the before and the after sleeves. With the before pic, I'd knitted about two-thirds of the sleeve. As you can see, in the new version I've removed the extraneous fabric under the arms and have shortened the sleeve considerably.

BEFORE - about two-thirds done, knitted from the bottom up

AFTER - knitted from the top down

I made some minor mods to the cuff, too. I think it's really pretty.

I started on the second sleeve last night. I'm excited to be moving right along. Maybe the endless stockinette body won't bother me so much if I feel like it's really going to fit well at the end.

I'm also changing the bottom of the sweater, btw. I'm canning the two-inches of ribbing and adding a hem that won't draw in under my big butt. I think this will be more becoming. I'm going to use a unique technique for the hem... more on that when I get to the bottom. - again, no pun intended! Enjoy your Memorial Day everyone. We're having a barbecue, but I'll be over in the corner knitting away waiting for the steaks to cook. I hope you can get some serious knitting in today, too.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's done: Cable Sampler Scarf

Yesterday I finished and blocked the Cable Sampler Scarf I started in Kathy Zimmerman's great cable class a couple of weeks ago. What a fun project! I learned a lot along the way, too - as I predicted, I'm now ready to knit a cabled sweater (probably Norah Gaughan's John's Sweater for my boyfriend, Tom).

As I was making the scarf, I wished I had photos of each square with which to compare my knitting. Therefore, I'm posting individuals pictures of each square. Hopefully this will help someone else finish up their Cable Sampler Scarf. (Some of the pics are a little skewed - sorry about that.)

Square 1

Square 2

Square 3

Square 4

Square 5

Square 6

Square 7

Friday, May 28, 2010

Knitting at Knoon Knirvana

I'm happy to report that Knitting at Knoon has launched its first plus-size pattern in what will eventually be a new line for ample women. I discovered this cute vest yesterday on the Cascade Yarns blog and ended up having an email discussion with Chris de Longpre, the designer behind Knitting at Knoon.

The Simply Squared Plus vest, which comes in finished bust sizes up to 64 inches (God bless her!), will be becoming for many ample women, myself included. And it's a quick and easy knit using heavy worsted yarn. The pattern is available from Jimmy Beans Wool.

In the coming months, Chris plans to offer her Hyacinth cardigan in plus sizes. This beautiful design will look great on ample bodies, too.

Knitting at Knoon is primarily a wholesaler and only publishes patterns twice a year in May and December, so we may be waiting a bit. But I'm looking forward to seeing what else Chris comes up with given these first two fine designs.

An update on my broken and bruised boyfriend, Tom: he is on the mend but is still in a lot of pain. He was attempting to go back to work today but is still too hurt. He also faces the challenge involved in driving 100 miles to his office with a broken right foot - his driving foot. We'll see how he does this weekend. (He also broke three ribs and his collarbone during a motorcycle accident last Saturday.)

Meanwhile, I'm pretty miserable. Tom told me yesterday that he can't promise he'll never get back on the bike again and I'm not sure I can live with this. Clearly we've got a lot of talking to do and I've got some hard decisions to make. Thank God for knitting, my ultimate stress reducer. Right now Tom makes me wish I could spend 24x7 curled up with yarn and needles.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To hell and back

What a horrible few days. The two men in my life are down for the count, leaving me stressed and scared.

The weekend started with my little man, Moose going to the vet to get his teeth cleaned. If you'd smelled his breath even once, you'd be signing him up for a dental cleaning, too. But I dragged him to the vet with some trepidation. Moose always has trouble with anasthesia and Friday was no exception. The vet couldn't keep him steadily asleep; because of this, Moose vomited during the procedure, spewing bacteria into his lungs and thereby greatly increasing his risk of pneumonia. Moose now lives on two antibiotics and lots of my prayers that his body fights the infection.

But there's more. Moose lost seven teeth, six of which literally fell out of his mouth the minute the dental instrument touched them. The vet says some dogs are prone to plaque problems and Moose is one of them. I assumed this would mean that Moose should get his teeth cleaned more often, but the vet advised against it because Moose has so much trouble with anathesia. My poor Moose may be a toothless wonder before long. I guess if worse comes to worst, I'll be making him meaty milkshakes. Thank God there aren't doggie dentures because I'm sure the vet's office would be trying to sell me a set.

Moose seems pretty well recovered now. He does cough from time to time, but that could be from the trach tube, too. So I'm watching and waiting and bribing him with balls of raw hamburger that conceal his antibiotics. He really likes the hamburger, thank God.

So that was Friday. Saturday was far worse.

My boyfriend, Tom, spends Saturdays with his teenage son, Michael. Much to my complete dismay, Tom and Michael both recently purchased crotch rocket motorcycles. I HATE THEM. Why my 55-year-old, not-in-the-greatest-of-health boyfriend feels the need to ride one of those God-awful death traps is completely beyond me. I suspect he wants to connect with his kid, and I respect that. But I don't think it's safe for anyone to be on a motorcycle, least of all Tom and his son.

Anyway, on Saturday night, I tried repeatedly to call Tom. He didn't answer which is very unusual. I knew Michael and he were visiting a friend earlier in the day, but it was getting towards midnight and I was frantic. I called and called and called and then finally text-messaged Michael; the one good thing about kids is that they ALWAYS respond to text messages. Michael wrote back immediately saying that Tom would call me when they got home. I waited and waited and finally Tom phoned. The long and the short of it: Tom was riding his motorcycle home on a dark, wet country road, lost control of the bike, hit a car, was ejected from the motorcycle, and ended up rolling repeatedly into a ditch. Two ambulances, two fire trucks, and multiple policemen later, Tom arrived at the emergency room. Grace of God, he didn't die.

His injuries include a broken foot, several broken ribs, and a broken collarbone, all on his right side. Considering that he could have died or had brain or spinal cord damage, the injuries seem minor. But it's going to take months to recover. The doctor told him to take at least a week off of work which is a good thing since he's not even sure how he'll be able to drive when he can actually hobble out to the car. And obviously his injuries are going to negatively impact our relationship for the timebeing, too.

What makes me angry - furious actually - is that this could all have been avoided if he'd never gotten on the bike. The orthopedist told Tom yesterday, "Man, you are way too old to be falling off a motorcycle." No kidding. I hope he heard this because if he didn't, I'm dragging his sorry ass to an audiologist. I've mostly avoided bitching at him about this accident because I want him to focus on getting better, but when he's on the mend, we're definitely having a serious conversation. He's got a choice to make: it's me or the bike. I can't live with this. I really can't.

So it's been a really tough few days. My only comfort has been getting a little knitting done. I'm almost finished with the Cable Sampler Scarf, a lovely diversion from my dark reality of late.

I screwed up one of the cables and have frogged back to fix it. So far, so good. No one would have noticed the mistake but it would have bugged me. Better to fix it than try to live with it. I know from experience that I'd never wear the scarf if it wasn't knitted correctly.

I plan to make the Cabled Cuff Mittens from the new Cascade 220 book, 60 Quick Knits. They'll be cute with the scarf, don't you think?

Thank God for knitting. Speaking of God, if you're a praying woman, please pray for my beloved pug and my beloved man, too. And while you're at it, put in a good word for me, too. We all really need the help.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Scarfing it down

A quick update on the Cable Sampler Scarf I started over the weekend at Kathy Zimmerman's cable class. I'm enjoying this little venture because it is building my confidence in cable knitting as much as anything else. After completing four of the seven squares, I am certain I can knit any cable pattern. My only challenges:
  1. Learn to count!
  2. Pay attention!
  3. Follow directions!
To be honest, I struggle with each of these very fundamental aspects of knitting. I still find it difficult to count garter stitch rows; counting cable rows is even worse. But I comfort myself that paying close attention to a complicated pattern keeps my middle aged brain humming, bringing my wandering mind back into the moment, into the present. Buddha would be so proud.
Check out my first four squares. I hope that when the desperately needed blocking process is complete that each square will be EXACTLY  the same size.  Otherwise, I will give this scarf to the very first poor soul who walks by. I recognize that perfect is the enemy of the good, but I'm completely anal about knitting. I'd rather rip out an entire sweater than wear it when I know it's wrong. You know this if you've read anything at all about my Handstrikket.

My Handstrikket is what I need to get back to after I finish horsing around with this scarf... and my mystery sweater... and the second Northman mitten... and so on. Oh, to be independently wealthy with lots of time to knit!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A wonderful knitting weekend

What a wonderful weekend! I arose early Saturday morning and hiked (read: drove) three-plus hours to Ligonier, PA, to attend the venerable Kathy Zimmerman's Cable Sampler Class. Although I spent more than seven hours driving back and forth, the experience warranted every single moment in the car.

Kathy's Kreations, located just off the village square in this quaint southwestern Pennsylvania town, is a rare gem of a knitting shop, filled to the brim with yarn, knitted garments, more needles than you can count, and a variety of knitting gadgets you've never even heard of. For example, do you own highlighter tape? I do, thanks to Kathy. This removable tape lets you easily keep track of your place in a pattern. Brilliant.

In this class, Kathy taught basic cabling techniques using  Bev Galeskas' Cable Sampler Scarf, a free pattern hightlighted in Debbie Macomber's novel "Summer on Blossom Street." The design features seven different cable squares embedded in a field of garter stitch.

As a class, we worked on the first square; by myself, I knocked out the second square last evening. This fun project makes me confident that I'll be able to knit my beloved boyfriend his very own John's Sweater, a cable pullover designed by Norah Gaughan.

But the most exciting news is that Kathy Zimmerman has agreed to teach a Knit to Fit class on July 10. When I told her about my (our!) woes to make a garment that actually fits, as well as the difficulties inherent in upsizing patterns, she offered this class. The homework: pick out a pattern or two, knit some swatches, and then come to the class where she'll help us create patterns designed just for our unique figures. How cool is that!? Kathy is the consummate pro; to get this education from the source is a priceless opportunity. Come join us if you can! I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. I definitely want to make one of Kathy's classic cable patterns. Here are two of my favorites, both available in recent Knitter's Magazines.

On my way home, I stopped at the temporary memorial for Flight 93, the so-called third plane that crashed on September 11 in Shanksville, PA. Although there isn't much there as yet, the remote, somber spot made me realize how much gratitude and respect we owe to the brave men and women who brought down that plane. As a DC native, this is particularly haunting for me. September 11, the worst public disaster in my lifetime, could have been much worse if those hijackers had flown that jet into the Capitol Building. Thank God those heroes made sure they didn't.

But even this sad little side trip couldn't bring down my day. I had a wonderful trip and I greatly look forward to my next trip to visit Kathy Zimmerman in July.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So many projects, so little time

Aargh. I'm multitasking again. This means that I've started 47 million projects and finished exactly ZERO. I've got so many projects going, I almost need a barcode system! Consider the following inventory:

Northman Mitten - Operative word being mitten and not mittenS. One down, one still to go. Fortunately it's May and I have lots of time before the weather gets cold again.

Crocheted Jacket for my nephew's wedding - After a week of solid crocheting, I managed to finish two squares. TWO. I need 60 within the next three weeks. There's no way in hell I can get this garment finished in time. So I've ventured into my closet, found something else to wear, and abandoned this effort for the time being.

Mystery Jacket - I blogged about this a couple of months ago. I am test knitting the plus-size version of a new design. The pattern isn't ready for public consumption, but I've gotten the ball rolling - literally. I rolled up all the yarn, casted on, and knitted the ribbing. I'm using Cascade Eco Plus - don't you love the color? But the best news is that it's bulky weight on 10.5 needles and is therefore a pretty quick knit.

Three-Button Solstice Jacket - Decided to switch yarns back to the recommended Classic Elite Solstice. Thank you, Webs, for putting it on sale at a deep discount. Finished swatching this weekend. Love the feel of the yarn, so much so that I pitched it to my beloved boyfriend, Tom, along with a pattern for...

John's Sweater - A beautiful cabled pullover Norah Gaughan designed for her boyfriend, John. After making Tom an unfortunate sweater when we first met almost three years ago, I learned my lesson: get the beloved BF's buy-in before making anything. Tom wholeheartedly approved both the Solstice yarn (because of it's high cotton content - he hates hot sweaters) and the pattern (because it features photos of John, Norah's burly boyfriend. Being a manly man, Tom won't wear anything that even remotely looks effeminate. Fortunately, John is from Testosterone City!). Having received Tom's express approval, I ordered more Solstice, this time in Kelp (thanks again, Webs). I hope to finish this for Tom's November birthday or in need be, for Christmas.

Unchecked Checkerboard Afghan - Still working on this a little at a time, but that was what I planned all along. Fortunately, I was able to buy the rest of the afghan yarn on sale (thanks yet again, Webs!).

And last, but definitely not least, the Handstrikket Reincarnation 2 - I started over the weekend by cutting off the front plackets and the neck ribbing. I then picked up the neck stitches, knitted a row, and then completed another decrease row. I finished by doing a series of short rows on the back collar so that the sweater would fit better - and it does! I knitted the ribbing back on and viola - a perfect fit.

Last night, I tried on my too-big sweater and figured out where the underarm should be. Then I took the biggest step of all: cutting this baby up! Frightened, I held my breath and snipped, expecting the entire sweater to dissolve in my lap. I was fortunately wrong - the process went perfectly. I unraveled and picked up the live stitches as I went.

Then I figured out where the sleeves stitches should begin and end on the left side. I marked the right side in a similar fashion, and then started knitting the sleeves. Unbelievably, it all went well! No-Drama Obama, that's my Handstrikket.

So... I'm going to focus on the Handstrikket and the Mystery Jacket for now. When I'm done with these, I'll go to the Three-Button Solstice. And then Tom's sweater will come last. Damn! That's a whole lot of sweater-making going on. I'd better get busy. Too bad I have to work and have friends and cook and walk the dog. I could get so much more done if all I ever had to do was knit!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One down, 59 to go

Here's the first square for the Crochet Motif Cardigan. I restarted the damn thing ten times to get it right, but fortunately the designer, Kristen TenDyke, sent me a chart and I was able to find my way. I'm aggravated with the Classic Elite Wool Bam Boo; it doesn't split - it literally shreds. GRRRR. But hopefully it will work up well - we'll see. One down, 59 more to go...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A beautiful block and more

I know you've already seen 40 pictures of my new Northman mitten, but I just love how well the Berroco Ultra Alpaca blocks up. Look at the pretty stitches! I can't wait until I finish and block the Handstrikket. Now I know it will look beautiful.

New project alert: last night I started Kristen TenDyke's Crochet Motif Cardigan. Here's Kristen herself modeling her own creation.

Kristen designed this sweater with Classic Elite Wool Bam Boo, and lo and behold, I have a boatload of that very yarn in my stash! (Please give me kudos for not buying more yarn - I am trying hard to be a responsible, non-yarn-addicted adult). I'm going to make this lacy cardigan to wear to my nephew's wedding in June. Kristen has kindly agreed to consult in my efforts to upsize the design. Fortunately, it's created with granny squares; by making each square larger, I can automatically make the sweater bigger. I'm swatching now and will keep you posted, but here's the beginning of one square:

I'm being very ambitious with this whole let's-make-a-sweater-by-June-5th thing. Today I complicated the entire process by visiting Joann Fabrics and buying four yards of gorgeous cream-colored linen. (Ssshhhh... I know I just bragged about not buying yarn, but fabric is different, right? Wink!) My plan: make a simple tank dress to wear under the cardigan. Yet another thing to accomplish by June 5!

You probably don't know that I've sewn forever and even worked as a fabric store manager for a few years in the 80s. Back then, I couldn't find anything decent to wear so I made most of my clothes. Now it's not so difficult so I hardly ever sew. But this little combo gives me the chance to flex my sewing muscles and create the just-right outfit. I'm going to make McCalls 2208, a very simple, very classic, very easy, and hopefully very quick to finish tank dress.

Monday, May 3, 2010

One down...

Last night I finished my first Mid-Atlantic Woman Mitten (aka Northman Mittens). What a cool design. I love the lining; you pick up stitches underneath the braid and essentially knit another smaller gauge mitten which you then tuck into the outer mitten. Beautiful.

Too bad I have to make another one. I'd love to move on to making a sock, but one mitten and one sock do not a pair make. I'll bang out this next mitten and then it will be time to tackle the Handstrikket renovation. I've got the techniques worked out in my head and am ready to go. Finishing that cardigan will be a true accomplishment - especially if it fits when I'm done!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A walk down memory lane in knitting nirvana

I can't help but marvel at Ravelry, the online world's knitting mecca. This social networking site hooks up knitters and crocheters from around the world and provide the means to track stash, patterns, magazines, booklets, and books, all in one easy-to-search place. It is a wonder.

But my favorite thing about Ravelry is not its comprehensive features or online ecommerce platform. I love Ravelry because it's let me reconnect with my college roommate. On Labor Day weekend 33 years ago, Chris and I moved into Syracuse University's Boland Hall (doesn't look like a dorm, does it?). Neither of us actively knitted then; as I remember it, our main concern was boys, although Chris did get up every morning before dawn to go crew in the freezing Onondagan waters (!). She and I lived together freshman year and remained Christmas card friends over the decades.

Then email came along, making communication easier. Chris was the first person who ever told me about Ravelry. I signed up right away, loving it from day one, and particularly relishing the chance to reconnect with my dear old friend. We have been talking regularly about life in general and knitting in particular ever since.

I was thrilled when Chris said she was planning on driving down from Syracuse for this weekend's Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. She almost didn't come because her beloved lab, Spencer was hit by a car last weekend (grace of God, he's on the mend) and her daughter came back from a semester abroad, and let's face it! Life is complicated. But despite all that, she tromped down to Maryland anyway.

Last night, two old knitting friends met for a wonderful dinner. Can you imagine anything better? We brought our current projects, of course. Check out this absolutely gorgeous Work Day Shawl from Norwegian Handknits that Chris made in Cascade 220. I'm in LOVE with this pattern and have to make it. Chris did an amazing job. And isn't the color just perfect on her?

We exchanged also gifts. Chris snuck off to the show and bought me some gorgeous Tess' Raw Silk which is featured now in the most popular pattern on Ravelry, the Summit shawl from Knitty. It's a gorgeous raspberry shade that looks great with my fair skin and dark hair. She bought herself some in a pale pink, perfect for her fair skin and blonde hair.

My gift? Yellow lab stitch markers made by Jillian of WeeOnes. A few weeks ago, I bought the pug stitch markers and adore them, so I figured the yellow labs markers would be great, especially since Spencer's injury has been so traumatic for Chris' family.

What a wonderful night! My only regret: I wish Chris lived closer. How wonderful it would be to have a knitting friend, especially one who has known me for over 30 years, to play with on a regular basis. But instead of regrets, I will be grateful for old friends, email, cell phones, and most especially Ravelry which brought us back together to begin with.