Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My black cat and red sweater

Hi, remember me? It's been a while. Life is a bit overwhelming at the moment. I'm really sad because my 19-year-old cat, Monica is dying. She's older than dirt as my Aunt Ginny used to say, but she's been healthy up until the last couple of days. She clearly gone instantly blind, hides in weird places, and won't eat. I'm not taking her to the vet to prolong her extra long life by a few days or months. Life is death and life is sad and that's just the way it is. Here is Monica a couple of weeks ago looking as spry as can be. How quickly things can change.

My Beetle convertible also gave up the ghost last week so rushed around and around and finally settled on a 2012 Honda CRV. I got a great deal, bought the extended warranty whether I should have or not, and am happy with my new wheels, as you can see.

I'm crazy busy at work which is good since I'm self-employed and now have a car payment! I won't bore you with the details, but now you know why I've disappeared.

I haven't stopped knitting though. Right now I'm working on a great follow-up to the Sophisticate, another top-down raglan cardigan. This time though, I'm test knitting a new pattern by Deb Gemmell. It's really more of a complicated, comprehensive recipe for a perfectly fitting raglan. A couple of people told me they didn't like the way the back of the Sophisticate fits me because it was too large in the back; I thought that this is just the way it is with raglan sweaters.

But Deb says an excellent fit is achievable so I'm using her new pattern to prove the theory. I stash dove and found some Ram Wool Selkirk, manufactured by Briggs & Little, 100% worsted wool in a lipstick red. I'm going to keep the cardigan very simple so that I can focus on fitting techniques. I've been longing for a plain, red cardigan for years anyway. I will of course share with you what I learn along the way.

Meanwhile, I'm going to grieve the loss of the beloved Monica, a cat who has owned me for 19 years, has completed wrecked at least 19 couches, and has lived to tell the tale anyway. She's tolerated the completely spoiled Moose who sucks the air out of every room and loved me anyway. I'll miss my little companion. I really will.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sophisticate lessons learned and future plans

Let's start with a giant TA-DA! (And by this I mean my sweater, not me - lol!)

I finished my Sophisticate. Finally! The Etsy vendor came through, sending me several skeins of similar but not identical bulky yarn. I truly lucked out. The undyed Corteccia yarn doesn't have any dyelots to match. I finished the sweater with the same undyed fibers just used in different proportions. The replacement yarn isn't as soft because it has less alpaca, but as you can see in the collar below, visually there is no difference between the two yarns. They also knit up beautifully - I haven't even blocked this sweater. I've never knitted a thing that didn't need to be blocked, but the Corteccia is the exception. 

The best thing about this sweater is that I've worn it twice and not one person asked me if I'd made my cardigan - not even people who know that I knit. The ultimate compliment!

I did get some criticism about my sweater though. Two Rav people commented that the back doesn't fit me correctly and is too large at the crossback. This is a function of making a symmetrical raglan; I can't cut in the crossback like I do on set-in sleeves. Kathy Zimmerman won't design raglans for this very reason. She says you can't get a good fit. 

But this problem is exaggerated on a larger form - or at least one like mine with lots of curves. Clearly raglans fit skinny chicks like Cecily Glowik MacDonald perfectly; she therefore designs with this form most of the time. Here is one of her creations, the popular Leaflet. Cecily's crossback is about the same width as her hips; she's even worked in some waist shaping, but she doesn't end up with extra fabric like I do. She rocks raglans.

I spoke to our friend Deb Gemmel, author of the ultimate raglan book, Button Up Your Top Down, about this issue. She suggests doing additional increases on the front raglan "seams" and fewer on the back. I'm interested in trying this technique soon to see if I can get a better fit. Deb has experimented extensively with this technique - stay tuned!

Deb has another great idea. She writes:
The only thing that I see when I look at your sweater is I think the back of neck is too wide. I would take a crochet hook and run a slip stitch line across the cast on back of neck stitches and pull it in about 1 1/2" - 2". You can be quite aggressive since the collar covers where you cast on there. If it works better you can do this in the pick up stitches at the base of the collar where pulling it in will actually help with the roll of the collar. Using a crochet hook means if you don't like it you can just zip it out pretty quickly and try again. I've done this with some top downs of my own because after a while they tend to stretch out of shape there.
I'm going to try this brilliant technique. But all things considered, I still love the sweater and know I'll get a lot of wear out of it. I'm also happy to have gotten some experience knitting raglans. This has been virgin territory and I look forward to learning how to make a raglan that fits just like I learned how to make a set-in sleeve sweater that fits. Can't wait.

Next up: I'm going to finish my Sunflower aka Zinnia mittens, modeled here by Monica, my 19-year-old cat.

I also want to make Susan Mill's Patchouli, a new design from Classic Elite Knits. I bought some Classic Elite Summer Set, an alpaca/cotton blend in Hydrangea - you know I'm a sucker for pink. I'm going to upsize this pattern to fit me and add some waist shaping, too. Hopefully I'll have this pretty spring cardigan done by Easter.

Finally, I have another big plan. I'm going to start a Knitting at Large Starmore Knitalong. Knitters can choose the Alice Starmore pattern of their dreams and we'll work on upsizing the patterns. Most of Starmore designs use very simple shapes; the complexity comes in the colorwork or cables. I've always wanted to make her patterns so let's just do it! Besides the online Rav group that I'll be setting up, we'll also have monthly (or at least regular) meet-ups in the DC/MD/VA/WV/PA area. Sorry out-of-towners... if you're ever passing through, I hope you'll join us. I'm thinking we'll start this in April, so stay tuned.

I haven't thanked you in a while for reading my blog and participating in the Knitting at Large Rav group, so let me say it again: THANK YOU. You make my day every single day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kim's crossback epiphany

From Ravelry, Kim31 writes:

So, I know you say all the time that the crossback is the important thing, because even if you’re plus sized, your crossback is probably not any bigger than a smaller woman. But I never really understood what you were talking about. Well, I’m in a bit of a laundry crisis around here (couldn’t lug the laundry around when my back was acting up), and since I was just hanging around the house, I went ahead and put on a thermal shirt that’s a size large that’s been at the bottom of my shirt drawer that I keep meaning to give to Goodwill and haven’t gotten around to (because I’m not a size large- although I think it was sized a bit big to begin with, because I haven’t been a large in well, ever). And you know what? It fits perfectly in the shoulders and the bust. It’s just too tight in the belly and too short.
So, I pulled out the tape measure and measured the top back of the shirt, from sleeve seam to sleeve seam (it’s a set in sleeve shirt), and it was 18 inches. I then pulled out some other shirts/sweaters that do fit me (mostly XXL, there was a 1X and a 2X, too) and that also have set in sleeves, and measured their top backs and you know what? They’re all 18 inches with the exception of one sweater that has ribbing in the bodice and that one was 17 (I figure it’s because the ribbing pulls in). The only difference between my 2X shirt and my L shirt is that the 2X is wider in the waist and hips (good thing, too, because I like fabric on my lower midriff. I think it’s a good look for me, you know? :o) ). Now, I’ve known forever that I’m not exactly large framed, even if I am a size 22- I have tiny hands and wrists and small feet and ankles, and while my shoulders aren’t narrow, precisely, they’re also not very wide (I’m mostly proportional, but a little more bottom heavy because I’ve got Eastern European peasant hips). But this really drove home what you were talking about with the cross back.

So, all this is to say that: 1) I get it now and also understand that if I’m knitting a sweater, I want to start with a much smaller size than I thought for the top because if I knit the size that’s going to fit my hips, it’s going to be insanely huge in the shoulders because my hips are 55 inches around, but my torso is only 43 inches around and more importantly, 2) to thank you for all your work in demonstrating fit and encouraging people to figure out how to fit their own bodies. Because if I hadn’t come across your blog or the Knitting at Large group here on Ravelry, I would have started knitting the size 56-58 sweater and never been able to figure out why it was so ridiculously big up top.
Another convert! I can't wait to see Kim's next sweater and how beautiful it looks because it actually fits. Thanks for writing, Kim, and for participate in our group, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hopefully, a solution

A hearty thank you to everyone supporting me during my recent yarn shortage crisis. I've received so many messages of comfort, commiserative anger, and a dozen great ideas about how to finish off my Sophisticate. I am, as always, so grateful for you. Thank you for reading and lifting me up, too.

I have some some hopeful news. I finally heard back from the Etsy vendor who reported that his Italian yarn distributor had been shut down over a week due to the worst snowstorm ever in Italy. The Etsy vendor apologized profusely but let's face it: he is powerless over snow storms and it's unreasonable to expect him to fly to Europe with a snow shovel to bring those last three skeins back to me. I understand. Crap happens. All the time.

As I was contemplating my next move, I got a timely response to my previous blog post. Anonymous writes: 
If your Etsy vendor is selling yarn that she is ordering from another vendor or wholesaler, it may be a Loooong time. The problem may be her wholesaler. After 12 years at an LYS, I know that some wholesalers are incredibly slow, and some small indies are even more so because they can't do a small batch just anytime. With 2 or 3 rows left to go, I think a nice contrast edge would look great, and isn't NOW when you eant to wear this sweater...not June?
Yes! I would like to wear this now. In fact, I'd like to wear it today. So I went back to the Etsy vendor's website to evaluate my color options. Poking around, I discovered that the company recently added a new yarn, one described as follows:
Lichene is the more rustic brother of Corteccia. This is rustic, feltable, wool in natural shades. It is an organic, natural wool/alpaca blend that would be awesome for outergarments and accessories.  

The only difference between Lichene and Corteccia (the yarn I used for my sweater) is that the former is an 80/20 wool/alpaca blend, and the later is a 60/40 one. I contacted the vendor immediately and he confirmed that the light gray Lichene and Corteccia matched. SOLD. Please send me three skeins today and let me get 'er done! I should have the yarn early next week and will be wearing my gorgeous sweater by Friday. Woo hoo! The yarns don't exactly match in the photo above but I'm hoping the vendor is right. If for some reason the Lichene doesn't work, I'll send it back and get a different color of Corteccia. 

In the meantime, I've been working on Zinnia fair isle mittens from Mary Anne Stephens. I found them on Twist Collective months ago and sent off for the yarn immediately. These lovelies remined me of  sunflowers so I picked a warm red and gold combination. The first mitten is moving along well. Now I just need to make sure I finish the second one! And while I'm at it, finish the two other sets of mittens at the bottom of my knitting basket. And let's not even talk about the bags of unfinished sweaters in my yarn closet. I am powerless over unfinished knitting projects and my life has become unmanageable. :-)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bottom of the basket

Last night, I dumped out my knitting basket looking for a pattern that I'd printed off weeks ago and subsequently lost. Among the detritus sprang another skein of gray yarn! Couldn't believe it. I still don't have enough to finish, but at least I could make some progress on the collar.

I think the collar is now wide enough. I need to knit two rows all around (meaning up the button bands and around the collar) and then bind off. I could get by with one additional skein - if that vendor would ever get back to me. I'm irked... it's been two days and no response. The next time I write about this issue, I'm going to tell you her shop name and recommend you never buy yarn from her.

I'm still hoping she'll come through. If she doesn't, I'll look at other options but I'd love to finish off my Sophisticate in the same yarn.

I also did a bit of knitting surgery last night. After finishing my BFF's cowl, I realized when I went to block it that I'd knitted one row incorrectly. See it? On the right side? I think she could have worn it and no one would have ever known the better, but my anal-retentive soul couldn't stand it. I cut off the offending section and reknitted. Now all is well. The new cowl is as long as the first version, btw; it's just not stretched out in this picture.

I'll let you know about the gray yarn and the disappeared vendor. I'm getting ready to voice the GRRRRRR that's heard around the world!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Only one thing left to do

There's only one thing left to do: WAIT.

It's happened. I've knitted up every bit of yarn for my Sophisticate and I don't have enough. As you may remember from last time, I've purchased additional skeins from an Etsy vendor who appears to have complete amnesia about my order. She told me she could order more but it would take a LONG time (her emphasis). I shot back a loud, whiny message along with my receipt reminding her that she  promised to have the yarn to me by the first week of February.

Unfortunately, it's now officially the second week of February. No yarn. :-(

I realize I may have to resort to using another yarn or color or eliminate the gorgeous shawl collar I want. But I'm going to wait (and whine) some more and see if I can get the skeins I ordered.

Until this, I'm going to do what this lovely graphic advises. Brilliant advice if you ask me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Almost there

I've almost finished the Sophisticate  and in almost record time. My only worry: I almost have enough yarn. :-(

I usually buy too much yarn for a project, but this time I underestimated. I could leave the cardigan as is and bind off, but I want to add a nice, full shawl collar. I ordered some additional yarn from the Etsy vendor a few weeks ago but it hasn't come in and she seems completely clueless about my order. When I whined loudly, she said she'd have some next week. We'll see. I'm very unhappy. :-(

I've finished the button band (not shown above) and am going to start on the collar tonight. I've only got one 60-yard skein left  so it won't last long; then I'll be stuck. But at least I'm almost done. If the vendor hurries up and gets me the yarn, I'll even get to wear it this winter.