Sweaters of Yore

My blue Leitmotif Cardigan is almost finished — it should be off the needles today and blocked by the end of the week. My aim was to make the best sweater I’ve ever made, and I think (knock wood) that I may have succeeded. But so we can all make an informed judgment, and because I thought it would be amusing, I am treating you to a post about all of the sweaters I made in my pre-blog days, in all their wonky glory.

What you see above is the second sweater I ever knit — we’ll get to the first in a moment. This super-crappy picture is courtesy of my old old camera’s self-timer, in my first grad school apartment. Yaaay. This is the “Go-Everywhere, Go-With-Everything Cardigan” from the first Stitch N’ Bitch book, which was the first knitting book I ever bought. I’d had a beloved store-bought blue cardigan knit from heavy cotton yarn, and I lost it at the exposition of MFA art theses in spring of my first year of grad school, because my friend Matthew worked for the art department and had access to their hidden behind-the-scenes wine. Wine is much sweeter when it is free and you are drinking it in a supply closet and then you can go look at art a minute later, let me tell you. But drunk-me lost the cardigan somehow, and I resolved to knit myself a replacement. I had to do a ton of annoying algebra to make the worsted-weight cotton yarn work for the pattern, which is written for DK weight I believe, but this actually came out pretty well. I still wear this sometimes!

Here is my first sweater ever, with head cut off to protect the innocent:

Look, this post is going to be full of crappy pictures. I apologize. Beware the sweater curse, ladies! Pat grumbles about the fact that I refuse to knit him a sweater until he has put the proverbial ring on the proverbial “it,” but I am now 1 for 1 in terms of knitting sweaters for dudes I was dating and then eventually breaking up with them and I am not eager to test the wrath of the curse again. What you see here is Knitty’s Accordion sweater, knit in blue and orange because this guy’s favorite teams were the Mets and the Broncos. When I knit this, I did not understand the concept of drop shoulders and couldn’t figure out why the sleeves were supposed to be knitted so short, so I just knit them as long as his arms were. Then when I sewed the piece together, well, we ended up with a sweater with cuffs. Big cuffs. I attached a zipper to this and everything, which is something I can barely imagine being willing to do now. But yeah, first sweater: it fit a human being and didn’t look too ridiculous!

Welcome to my third sweater, Veronik Avery’s Dollar and a Half Cardigan from the Spring 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. This one legitimately rules. As you can see, it has stripes on one side, and a big fat cable braid on the other. I wear this thing all the time, despite the fact that the sleeves are too long — and this time, it wasn’t (quite) my fault. I know that I have freakishly short arms, so I knit the sleeves an inch or two shorter than the pattern specified, and they still came out about three inches too long. Sigh! Again, cuffed sleeves to the rescue. I’m pretty entertained that I’m in basically the same pose here that I was in that shot I took of myself in the green sweater two years earlier.

Like many knitters in the summer of 2008, I became obsessed with Ysolda’s Liesl. So much so that I knit two of them. It used so little yarn! It knit up so quickly! It was like crack cocaine for basically the entire online knitting world. I knit this one out of Rowan All Seasons Cotton, which is very soft and surprisingly lightweight, but I had (and continue to have) real trouble with the pesky ends like the one you see poking out on my arm there, because they won’t felt away. I do get a considerable amount of wear out of this, though, on breezy spring afternoons. And I’m kind of in love with those wooden buttons I chose.

Liesl II: Electric Boogaloo. This time I knit the sleeves long, and modified the pattern slightly to end up with bell sleeves because I am a big old hippie. This is knit in Malabrigo worsted, which was lovely to work with but has unfortunately developed a serious pilling problem in its old age, so I don’t wear this a whole lot. But the color sure is gorgeous; my Ravelry notes tell me it was just called “Burgundy.” And I love the bizarre angle at which Pat took this shot.

And… that’s it! The only proper non-shrug sweater I’ve knit since starting my blog is the Audrey in Black I did this past spring. And while I love that to pieces and wear it all the time, I think — no whammies no whammies no whammies — that this one I’m finishing up just might be my best sweater yet. Stay tuned!

Ammons II

Look, I made another skein of Ammons yarn! It’s the one one the right. I tried to make it thinner and more tightly spun than the first skein, so it would be more similar to the red yarn I spun earlier that I plan to stripe it with, and it looks like I succeeded! By accident, the colors lined up pretty well in plying, so there’s less of the barber-pole effect and more runs of solid color — which I wasn’t particularly trying for, but it looks nice! I was wrong earlier when I thought that I’d spun half of the Targhee — each of these is about 1/3 of it, and there’s another 1/3 of it left unspun. But this new skein is probably enough for what I have in mind, and I’ll figure something else out for the worsted-weight skein. So I’ve gone back to spinning the red Corriedale fiber, until I have enough of that for the project I have in mind. Unfortunately, it’s become clear to me that I won’t be able to start on this knitting-with-my-handspun project until the new year; I have a couple of holiday knitting commitments as well as some smaller projects I intend to travel with, and it seems senseless to plan to cast on for this in the middle of all that while also on vacation. (And of course, before I leave, I will finish my cardigan! Mark my words.)

The other photo I have for you today is of one of my plants on the back porch; they have been flowering gloriously this autumn:

Oh southern California, sometimes I mourn your lack of traditional seasons — and sometimes I love having flowers and sunshine all year round.

In Progress

Just popping in to show you a (blurry, crappy) progress shot for my Leitmotif Cardigan. I finished the body last night, and started on the sleeves shortly after this picture was taken. Please, uh, excuse my pajamas — it was about 11:00 at night, and I wanted Pat to snap a picture at the vest-stage before I started on a sleeve and made it all lopsided. So far the sizing seems to be working out, and I had no trouble lining up the stitches when I picked up the provisional cast-on in the middle. I’m modifying the pattern at the shoulders a bit, which makes me nervous because shoulders are a complex piece of architecture and I’ve never attempted to mess with them before. But a bunch of Ravelers are saying that the sleeve caps on this cardigan are rather puffy, and as a fairly broad-shouldered lady I figured I’d try to eliminate some of the puff by doing fewer and wider short rows than the pattern calls for. If you’re playing along at home, the specific change I made was to put 21 stitches instead of 13 between the end points of the first short rows. Hopefully this will not end up looking dumb or constricting my arms too much. The good news, though, is that once I’ve knit a bit farther down on the sleeve I can try it on and check it out!

I’m determined to finish this sweater before I go on winter break, because I really don’t want to haul a project this large across the country. Wish me luck!

Fiber, Fiber Everywhere

Meet my newest skein of handspun yarn! I’ve decided that from now on I am going to name my yarns after poets and poetry, because I can. I’m calling this one “Ammons,” because its colors remind me of Ithaca in autumn, and our patron saint of poetry at Cornell was Archie Ammons — I discovered poems like “The City Limits” in my freshman fall, and I continue to associate Ammons’ work with everything that is lovely about autumn. As I mentioned earlier, this skein was a little under-spun, in a slightly misguided attempt to correct for the over-spunness of my first skein, but with the other half of this Targhee top I think I’m finally hitting the sweet spot.

Yesterday my friend Shayda and I hit up the Southern California Handweaver’s Guild’s Weaving and Fiber Festival, the only fiber festival in southern California that is open to the public. (TNNA has yearly events around here, but they are only open to professionals.) It was our first fiber festival, so we didn’t have a lot to compare it to, but I got the sense that it was on the small side. It was also, unsurprisingly, catering more to weavers than to knitters or spinners, but we found plenty to occupy ourselves.

This was the main room, somewhat depopulated because the fashion show was just about to start up in one of the other rooms. There were also a few smaller rooms — which got pretty jam-packed full of people at some points — and another room about this size that mostly was for the stage and seating for things like the fashion show and the auction, neither of which we stayed for.

Here’s a shot that Shayda snapped of me perusing the wares at the Capistrano Fiber Arts booth in one of the smaller rooms. I think the skein I am fondling here (is “skein” the right word to use when you’re talking about fiber and not yarn?) is the exact one I ended up buying later. We sadly neglected to get a photo of the Slipped Stitch Studios booth, where I convinced Shayda that she needed pattern magnets for chart knitting, but I was thrilled to meet the proprietor since it’s one of my favorite Etsy shops. Her pattern magnets are truly indispensable for anyone who knits from charts, and her project bags are lovely — I have one myself, and I bought one for my partner in a Ravelry swap that I participated in over the summer.

After our shopping, Shayda and I settled into the circle of spinners and knitters on the patio that turned out to be mostly made up of members of the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild — an organization I’d been curious about, but their meetings sure do take place at 9:30 AM on Saturdays. 😦 They were welcoming and informative, though, and we passed a pleasant 45 minutes or so with them. Shayda knit:

And I tried out my brand-new spindle:

Any spindler will tell you that you can’t have just one. I was on a specific mission to buy a spindle suited to help me spin lightweight yarns, and I found a lovely handmade one just moments after coming through the door. Here it is up close, along with some 50/50 silk/merino fiber from Twist, Yarns of Intrigue in Manhattan Beach, CA:

I’m kind of stunned at how well this picture came out. Thanks, new camera! The camera doesn’t get all the credit, though — with this set of photos, I finally figured out how to manage the southern California sunshine so that things are well-lit but not washed out. I was so impressed with myself, in fact, that I used this shot to make a new header for this blog — if you’re reading this in RSS, click through to admire it in all its rudimentary-photoshop glory!

The above fiber captivated me immediately — it was one of the few things that I put my hand on the moment I saw it and didn’t let go until I was paying somebody for it. (I do love me some earth tones.) Most of the other things I bought were the result of more deliberation, and not purchased until Shayda and I had made a sweep of the whole festival and then took a second pass to actually buy. The Twist yarns booth (not to be confused with the Twist Collective magazine) was particularly seductive; in addition to that fiber, I also bought this skein of Twist Sparkle, a silk/merino/nylon blend with flecks of real silver throughout:

Believe it or not, this was the only skein of yarn I bought. Everything else I bought was fiber. This was partially because the festival, as I mentioned, catered largely to weavers — so a lot of the yarn there was being sold in giant weaving cones and/or was too heavy and rough to use for most knitting purposes. But there was plenty of very nice knitting yarn, too! The main reason I bought mostly fiber instead of yarn was that fiber is significantly cheaper — in addition to having lower price tags for the same amount of fiber, I figure when you do the calculation that goes “number of hours of enjoyment I get out of crafting with this divided by dollars I spent on it,” fiber comes out leaps and bounds ahead because of all the time you spend spinning it before you knit with it! But uh, I may have come back with enough fiber to last me for several years.

This lovely batt is from La Llama Wear, llama ranchers from Apple Valley, CA. I’ve never spun from a batt before, but I’m assured that it’s just like spinning from anything else. This is, yes, mostly llama wool. I’m excited! I was consciously trying to buy a wide range of fibers so I can get more experience spinning and start to figure out which fibers I like more and why.

Here are my final two acquisitions. On the left is that Capistrano Fiber Arts fiber that I was fondling in that photo up there. Their etsy shop is currently in “vacation” mode because they’re going to have to re-inventory everything now that the festival’s over, but I strongly encourage you to return in a few days; their fibers and yarns are gorgeous! (That seems to be true of most of the etsy shops I’ve been linking to, actually.) What I settled on was a 50/50 blend of superfine merino and bombyx silk; I just love the boldness of the purple, green, and red colorway. On the right is a blend of 50% mohair, 30% merino, and 20% angora from Cheltenham Cottage — this one sucked me in mostly on the basis of feel; it’s the softest thing ever! I believe that Mariepaule raises the angora rabbits herself, which is pretty awesome.

All in all, it was a good time. Shayda seemed particularly impressed at seeing so many fiber enthusiasts in one place, and I had to agree. I spend a fair amount of time in the online knitting community, so I’m used to the idea that there are zillions of likeminded people out there, but there’s a difference between typing your enthusiastic comments to one another from your isolated computers and actually giving and receiving compliments in person. It was remarkable to be able to say something like “I just want to keep petting your fiber forever” out loud to somebody and have them smile proudly instead of calling the cops. This community — it’s a strange one, but it sure is friendly.

Baby, It’s You

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to introduce Emily Kathryn! My friends Liz and Jay welcomed her into the world about five weeks ago, and already she is a gifted knitwear model. Just look at that saucy expression, and her studied casual pose!

Look how gracefully she reclines! Liz was gracious enough to take pictures of little Emily modeling the dress and booties that I knit this summer in anticipation of her arrival. As you can see here, the dress is still a little big, which was my intention — I was hoping that it would fit her more or less perfectly when spring comes.

My favorite part of these shots is seeing that the dress seems to match her eyes perfectly. I understand that babies’ eyes change color and tend to darken over time, but for now the matchingness is pretty adorable.

My knitting life lately has been consumed by my Leitmotif cardigan. This shot is really washed out from the bright sun today, but it’ll give you an idea of how it’s coming along:

I’m done with half of the body, and I’ve picked up the stitches at the provisional cast-on in the middle of the back to start the other half of the body. This cardigan has an intensely weird construction, but once you get your mind around it, it makes a certain amount of sense. I continue to be madly in love with this project and convinced that it’s going to be my best cardigan yet.

I’ve also been spinning:

That multicolor Targhee top from Mountain Colors is looking pretty exciting! This is about as full as I managed to get this spindle, and here it is wound up for plying:

This is about half the Targhee fiber. My first batch of handspun yarn — the “Brickhouse” yarn that I showed you a few weeks ago — was very overspun, and in this batch I think I’ve overcorrected and it’s a bit underspun. But this is how you learn, I suppose, and when I spin the second half of both batches of fiber I hope to hit the sweet spot. I’m currently in the process of plying this yarn here, and should have pictures for you in just a few days!

On Sunday, some knitting friends and I are planning to hit up the Southern California Handweaver’s Guild’s Weaving and Fiber Festival in Torrance, CA. It will be my first fiber festival, and I’m super excited! Izznit, other SoCal knitters, if you’d like to meet up there, let me know and we’ll figure it out!