Hold This Thread As I Walk Away

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Once upon a time (last spring), I started knitting an Acer Cardigan in this lovely Tosh Vintage yarn. I knit the whole body and one of the sleeves:

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And it was a little bit too big for me. The sleeve (just pinned on in this pic) was WAY too big, but the body was okay — it’d be a little loose, but I was going to layer under it, right? By this point it was summer and Pat and I were leaving for Austin, so I decided to set it aside and redo the sleeves and other finishing work in the winter. Now it’s February, and I’m 20 pounds lighter than I was a year ago, and this sweater was WAY TOO GODDAMN BIG. And so:

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I’ve started alllll over again, knitting a smaller size. I’ll also probably just pick up stitches from the shoulder and knit the sleeves top-down to fit me, now that I’ve been burned once by the sleeves in this pattern. It’s a little frustrating, but why knit a sweater that won’t fit?

In other long-hibernating-project news, I am finally moving towards finishing my linen-stitch pillows. I tried three different seaming methods before I hit on one I liked:

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This is the stockinette back joined to the linen-stitch front of one of the pillows (unstuffed). I’m pretty pleased with how nice and neat this looks. My original plan was to just crochet the backs and fronts together, since I like crocheting much more than I like seaming, but this created an ugly bump in the stockinette section — I didn’t think to take a picture, but it was gross. Then I tried backstitching, but I eventually got spooked about not being able to see the seam (since the wrong sides were facing me), so now I’m doing a version of mattress stitch and it’s working well, if slowly.

I’ve also started a new mindless project for third-drink-of-the-night knitting:

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The pattern is Groovy by Annie Lee of JumperCablesKnitting. The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, which I bought in Seattle about a year ago. I expect this will take me about six million years to knit, as it’s knit on US 2s and may take as much as 700 yards of yarn, though I definitely might quit before that. But what a lovely, simple concept for a shawl! I had to pin it to get the pleats to separate for you, but presumably blocking will make them lie reasonably flat.

That’s all I’ve got for now — enjoy your holiday if you’ve got one!

This is What Denial Looks Like

Yep. I told you last time that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have enough yarn to finish my Semele, and here I am running out with less than 20 (increasingly short) rows to go. I had to see it through to the bitter end, though; I didn’t want to give up if I really did have enough yarn.

And here, friends, is what crazy looks like:

That’s right: I frogged the whole damn thing. I could, of course, have just ripped back a little past the center and put the turning point earlier, but that would have made the finished article significantly smaller, and would have wasted something like a full quarter of the skein. So instead, I’m going to knit this all over again in exactly the same size but with size 5 needles instead of size 6s.

The fabric is definitely a little denser than I’d ideally like, but I have faith that it’ll open up plenty in the blocking stage. Wish me luck!

I also have finally finished spinning that merino fiber I bought in Seattle:

Isn’t it gorgeous?? I have about 450 yards of a light, fluffy sport weight yarn here. It’s certainly enough for a lace shawl or scarf, but because of its sproingy texture I’m considering a long, snuggly cowl instead. We’ll see! It’s been awhile since I had a handspun project on the needles, so I’m eager to make a decision and get started.

I have, however, also started another new project:

This is the beginning of River Crossing, from Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s new book Landing. I’ve been a fan of her clean, classic designs for awhile now, but this is my first time actually knitting one of them. This is a pretty simple top-down raglan cardigan, with a wide textured collar and button band. It seems like a very versatile, wearable piece, and the simplicity of the design allows this gorgeous gray from Hazel Knits to stand out. The yarn is their Piquant Lite in the “Nickel” colorway, and I was worried that it would be a little too lightweight for this design, but I got gauge in my swatch, and the yarn plumped up a bit in the blocking stage, so I think it should work. Wish me luck!

Travelling Light

Pat and I are spending June and July in Austin, TX — so for the last week or so, my knitting time has been dedicated to figuring out what projects to bring with me, and to getting a strong enough start on those projects that I feel confident about my yarn, needles, and pattern choices. Since Austin is very hot and humid, I figured that airy lace was the most realistic plan — I’m not going to want to be knitting huge blankets or sweaters while I’m there. What you see here is Anne Hanson’s Butternut Scarf knit in Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Lace in the “Cornflower” colorway. Last summer, when Sanguine Gryphon announced that it was dissolving into two companies, I snatched up one of the last skeins of Gaia Lace available — and it’s a good thing, too, because neither of the new companies carries it. (Though Cephalopod Yarns’ Nautilace seems to fit a similar profile.) I had initially envisioned using this yarn for Anne Hanson’s Almost Ovals, which was released right around the time I bought this yarn — but after a few days of knitting it earlier this week, I decided that I just didn’t love it. It’s entirely possible that blocking would have cleared up the issues I had with the pattern, but it was looking a little sloppy and the YOs were very asymmetrical (because on one side of the motif they’re between purls and knits, and on the other side they’re between knits and purls). Also the pattern required a little more attention than I’d initially anticipated, and I really wanted this to be a soothing, easy project. Anne’s Butternut Scarf leapt immediately to mind as an alternative — I’d started it twice in the past, and both times I loved knitting it but decided that my yarn choices weren’t right. Now, finally, I think I’ve got the perfect marriage of pattern and yarn, and I’m delighted!

The reason I wanted to make sure the above project was relatively easy is that my main knitting task while in Austin is going to be this:

A huge, intricate stole with lace-knitting rows on both sides. Whee! Chrissy Gardiner’s Path of Flowers Stole, to be exact. I’ve had my eye on this pattern ever since Grumperina sang its praises on her blog a few years ago. Projects this huge and repetitive can be difficult to force myself to finish, but I was inspired by my success with my Autumn Arbor Stole last summer — I deliberately sort of stranded myself on a desert island with it by having it be the only project that I didn’t pack away in a box while Pat and I moved, and I finished it swiftly and uncomplainingly. So I’m optimistic! The yarn is Shimmering from A Verb for Keeping Warm, in the colorway “My Hand and Yours,” picked up at their Oakland shop over spring break a few months ago.

I am also closing in on the end of my Stripe Study shawl, which is also coming with me:

I probably only have enough yarn for one more red wedge after the one I’m working on, but the rows are getting very long and I also don’t work on this very often since it’s my “mindless, knitting-while-intoxicated” project, so it’ll probably be a few more weeks before it’s finished.

If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll remember that I had to knit an emergency baby cardigan a few weeks ago. I did finish it in time, but not without some minor absurdity:

That’s the sweater blocking in the back seat of Pat’s car without any ends woven in, about 12 hours before I had to get on a plane to go meet the baby. But everything was finished by baby o’clock!

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the actual baby, but I think this sweater is probably a little big for him right now anyway. The pattern is the Debbie Bliss Ribbed Baby Jacket, and the yarn is Madelinetosh Vintage in the “Crumble” colorway. After much hemming and hawing, I decided not to put any buttons or other closures on it, in case such things would worry the parents by seeming like choking hazards.

My progress on my own sweater is much slower:

I’d initially hoped to get both sleeves for my Acer Cardigan finished and attached before we went to Austin, figuring that I’d just leave the finishing work (button bands, blocking, etc) until after we return. But after completing one sleeve according to the pattern’s directions, I became deeply worried that it was way too large. So I pinned the sleeve to the body of the sweater as you see here, and lo, it was way too large. My plan is to unravel this sleeve and just do top-down sleeves knit to my own measurements — which I considered doing in the first place, but I decided that it would be “easier” to just do what the pattern told me to do. 😦 😦

I’m not going to do a lick of that until we come back from Austin, though. Not only does working on a sweater in 110-degree heat sound unappealing, but this particular sweater and I need some time apart while I work on addressing my anger issues!

Experiments

If this hat looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s the third one of these that I’ve knit — though you never saw the second, which I knit just last week and is already in the hands of its intended recipient. I knit the first one in 2009 as a replacement for a beloved non-handknit hat that a friend of mine had lost. As you can see in this post, it’s not at all the same as the original hat, but I took inspiration from it. Now he’s gone and lost the hat I originally knit for him, and was upset enough about it to commission two identical hats from me in case he loses another one. I was flattered, but when I went back to my Ravelry notes about the first hat, I found them a little mysterious. The pattern is Ysolda’s Cairn, and according to my notes I knit the first hat using size 8 needles despite the fact that the pattern called for 6s. Was this a choice I made because my gauge was off, or was I just being stubborn about the fact that I had a hat-sized needle in size 8 and not in size 6? In the end I decided to trust my notes, especially since John had liked the hat the way it came out, and once I had a finished hat I was pretty sure it fit the same way the other one did. The yarn is Koigu Kersti in colors K2420 and K2392. The first of this new pair is already in his hands, and this one will be soon. I hope to get modeled shots for you when Pat & I visit San Francisco over our spring break in a few weeks!

In addition to experimenting with trusting my own peculiar Ravelry notes, I have also suddenly and inexplicably been hit with the desire to learn how to steek. For those who don’t know, steeking is the act of deliberately cutting your knitting with scissors — it hurts my heart to even type that! — to achieve a variety of effects. It’s often used with colorwork, which is much easier to knit in the round than back-and-forth — so if you want to knit a colorwork cardigan, you knit it in the round and then you cut it open (carefully, after having made some preparations that you should definitely read about before you try it). I still haven’t really gotten on the colorwork train, since it makes such dense fabric and I live in such a warm climate, but I’ve gotten started on two projects that use steeks to make fringe:

This is the ultra-simple Bad Oyster by Alexandra Tinsley, whose designs and blog I have been enjoying lately. Right now it’s a cone-shaped thing that I’m knitting using the Magic Loop method (though as you can see, I’m getting close to being able to knit it in the round regular-like), but once I’m done with the knitting I’ll cut it open along the lefthand side there and unravel that part into fringe along the edges of a triangular shawl. Theoretically. Unless I mess it up. The yarn is Malabrigo Sock in the “Persia” colorway.

Aaaand instead of waiting to see whether I mess up such a simple steeking project so I can learn from my mistakes, I’ve gone ahead and cast on a much more complicated one:

This is Natsu by Angela Button. The steeking part is actually no more difficult than the other project; it’s just everything else that’s more complicated. The area of plain stockinette that you see in the foreground here will be the fringe; it will be cut down the middle and unraveled. And then this circular thing should become a lovely lace scarf with fringe at the ends! This project has already given me a lot of grief, though — I cast on for the “scarf” size, and after getting through 4 of the 5 repeats that the pattern called for, I realized that I wasn’t using up nearly as much yarn as I ought to and that the whole scarf seemed pretty short. I did go down a needle size because I’m using fingering rather than sport-weight yarn, but I think the scarf size in the pattern is just ludicrously short. I ripped the whole thing out and cast on the number of stitches for the wrap size, and am now much more satisfied with its length — I’m just going to knit it to scarf-width. But that’s not where my problems ended — about two weeks ago, I noticed that 10 long rows back, I had dropped a p2tog, which resulted in a big obvious hole in my work. I pouted about it and knit those two hats, and then I finally (wo)manned up and ripped out those rows, working painstakingly with a tapestry needle and a crochet hook to pick up the dropped stitches. It’s not easy to pick up stitches after ripping a lace pattern, let me tell you! It was about two hours work in total, but that’s much less time than it would have been to rip the whole thing out and start from scratch. The yarn has been standing up to all this ripping like a champ: it’s Sundara’s Fingering Silky Merino, in the colorway “Monet’s Basilica.” I’m a sucker for a nice purple-gray, and I like Monet a lot, so when Sundara’s Monet colors came out a few months ago I was powerless against this one.

I’ve also been spinning that blue merino fiber from Weaving Works in Seattle:

It’s kind of hijacked my previous spinning plans — I had been spinning a bunch of gray Jacobs wool from my friends’ farm to stripe with the blue Jacobs wool that I finished spinning recently, but this fabulously multitonal colorway was impossible to keep my hands off of!

And the last thing I have to show you is that I finally finished the front of one of those linen-stitch pillow-covers I’ve been working on:

I love the way it came out! I’m now working on the second one, and they’ll both get plain blue garter-stitch backings. There’s no pattern here; I’m just knitting them to fit my ugly, ugly throw pillows. Eventually you’ll get before-and-after pictures, I promise!

Port Ludlow

While I was waiting for the needles I needed to finish my Leaves of Grass blanket, I worked on these socks over the holidays. Once the needles arrived, the blanket had my undivided knitting attention, so I didn’t finish these up until earlier this week. But I couldn’t be happier with them!

They’re Anne Hanson’s Port Ludlow socks, knit in String Theory Caper Sock in a discontinued colorway (but “Laguna,” which they’re currently offering, looks pretty close). I’m a big fan of this yarn: it’s dense and springy and reminds me a lot of the Sanguine Gryphon’s Bugga! yarn. This is the second pair of socks that I’ve knit with this yarn; the first were Cookie A’s Rick socks.

I forgive you if you weren’t terribly excited about these socks when they were in the WIP-stage — it’s hard to fully appreciate the stitch pattern until they’re finished and on a pair of feet:

When Anne was designing these I wasn’t particularly interested in them either, until she posted the finished photos of them on her feet and I was immediately smitten. This is a great beginner-to-intermediate sock pattern; the lace is very easy and intuitive, and it was lovely to zoom along through these while chatting with family over the holidays.

Here’s another angle:

Here you can perhaps tell that one of the cuffs is about a half an inch longer than the other one. That’s because I was also working on Pat’s socks over the holidays, and I mixed up the instructions for the cuffs in my head — the Port Ludlow socks want you to knit in 2×2 rib for an inch and a half, while the Blueberry Waffle socks want you to knit in 2×2 rib for 12 rounds. A smart person might have double-checked her pattern or at least looked at sock #1 for reference when she cast on for sock #2, but I am apparently not that person. I had “12 rounds” firmly in my head — because I’d just cast on Pat’s socks a few days earlier — and it wasn’t until I’d knit halfway down the leg of the sock that I realized my error. I decided it wasn’t worth ripping back to fix. I generally just wear my knitted socks around the house anyway — but if they ever did leave the house, and somebody looked at them closely enough to notice the error, and they were impolite enough to comment on it, I think I’d be within my rights to just smack them upside the head.

Mysteries of the East

If you’re asking yourself, “what on earth am I looking at?”, don’t worry: I’m asking myself that, too. A guy I dated in my junior year of college — years before I learned to knit, let alone spin — spent winter break that year at the Gandhi Institute in India, where he studied the philosophy of nonviolence and also learned to spin using a kit like this. Gandhi believed very strongly that all Indians should learn to spin so they would be less dependent on British textiles, and in fact the spinning wheel became an important symbol of his philosophy. My boyfriend, in addition to bringing me back some lovely dresses, brought me this kit and attempted to show me how to use it, but I never got the hang of it and we broke up shortly thereafter (for unrelated reasons). I did not bring my usual spinning with me to my parents’ house for the holidays because the equipment takes up a significant amount of room in my suitcase — but I thought that, with my newfound understanding of spinning, I might be able to get this thing to work.

The problem, of course, is that the directions are both vague and poorly translated, and the diagrams are blurry and sort of inaccurate. But with their dubious help and my general understanding of the physics of spinning, I managed to get the parts assembled into a configuration that really ought to work — in theory.

On the righthand side of the picture is a wheel with a metal handle that you turn by hand, which turns the smaller wheel even faster. On the lefthand side, that dark brown thing holding the spindle has a spring-hinge, which keeps the spindle under tension, and the spindle really ought to be turned by that loop connecting it to the smaller wheel. But it doesn’t work. I suspect that it might yet work this way if I either greased the point of the spindle that goes in the holder, or widened the spindle-hole in the holder just a tiny, tiny bit with a drill. I may attempt one of these things later, and let you know how it goes.

If all attempts fail, though, at least I have this bundle of Indian cotton that I can spin back home with my regular spindles!

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been working on some gift projects, but fewer than usual this year — after two years in a row of knitting for all my family members, I figured we all could use a break. How many hats and scarves does a person need? To a knitter, the answer is “infinity,” but to a regular person the answer is, “you know, a couple.” So they’re getting non-knitted gifts this year. I am, however, crocheting a set of coasters for my mom by special request; I should be finishing them up in the next day or two and will show them to you then. The only other gift I’m knitting this year is this scarf, which I’m giving you only a peek of since I want there to be some element of surprise when the giftee receives it, even though he and I talked at great and somewhat agonizing length about what he wanted the scarf to look like:

The yarn is the brand-new Shelter from Brooklyn Tweed, which I’d been eager to try, in the Woodsmoke colorway. It does seem very lofty and warm, but I was saddened to find a great deal of vegetable matter in the yarn — I’ve been picking out the bits of hay when I encounter them, but I’m probably not getting everything. This is definitely a wool-person’s yarn — it’s a bit on the scratchy side, but I think it’ll soften up once it has a bath, and it ought to be very durable.

I’ve also been working on my Shallow Sideways Tri-Shawl — I’m now past the halfway point, and it’s narrowing down instead of growing, so it’s flying along:

I continue to be head-over-heels in love with the Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Lace yarn; it’s actually kind of hard to imagine buying any other kind of lace yarn in the future. But surely I’ll manage somehow.

Swatches Are Lying Bastards

They may look innocent, but do not believe their lies.

I don’t swatch as much as I should. I know this. Most of what I knit is lace, where you don’t really need to swatch unless you’re worried about running out of yarn. I swatch for socks, but knitting a whole 4-inch swatch always seems a little crazy for something so small, especially since it takes so many damn stitches to come up with 4 inches in sock yarn, so I usually make mini 2-inch swatches, and this usually works fine (in part, I’m sure, because sock patterns are generally designed to be stretchy, so gauge isn’t critical as long as it’s in the right ballpark). But when the yarn arrived for Carol Fellers’ Leitmotif Cardigan, I decided I was going to be uncharacteristically virtuous — I wanted to ensure that this sweater would fit well, so I was not only going to knit full 4-inch swatches, but I was going to wash and block them just like you are supposed to.

Now, I realize that the above are still not as large as swatches are supposed to be. I know that you are supposed to knit a few stitches wider than the number of stitches that is supposed to give you four inches, and I know that you are supposed to knit them all the way square. But I felt so damn virtuous from my plans to wash and block that I figured I didn’t really need to knit them quite that big. And in fact, I’m not convinced that doing so would have averted the sorrow I experienced.

The recommended needle size was 8, so I started there (the swatch with the orange marker). It rapidly became clear to me that the gauge was way too tight, so I cast off and tried size 9 needles (the unmarked swatch). The gauge was still too tight, so I tried 10s (the swatch with the green marker). Bingo. I dutifully took notes on the measurements of these swatches, put them in to soak, and lay them out to dry. While they were drying, I wrote a Wise And Experienced comment on Izznit‘s blog easing her fears about swatch-blocking, assuring her that as long as she treated her swatch the same way she planned to treat her garment, its gauge ought to be accurate.

A few hours later, I checked on my swatches and noted that their measurements didn’t change much in blocking, but I was still a little hesitant to actually knit the sweater on size 10 needles. I thought, I am a Wise And Experienced Knitter, and I know that the gauge will actually open up a little bit under the garment’s own weight, so I will knit the sweater on size 9 needles. You can’t trick me, swatches!

Then came about two hours of struggling with the damn cast-on. The pattern calls for an invisible provisional cast-on, which I’d never done before — and the diagrams looked confusing, so I thought I’d outsmart the pattern and use Judy’s magic cast-on, which I learned for my Lady Green Shrug and am now totally in love with. So I cast on all 111 stitches this way, only to discover that Judy’s magic cast-on requires you to start on a right-side row, and the pattern wanted me to start on a wrong-side row — and I am not clever enough to figure out how to adjust for that, given that there are cables and such to contend with. Damn. So I ripped it out, and then spent about an hour failing to comprehend all the diagrams and videos on the entire internet for the invisible provisional cast on. This is the video that I finally managed to learn it from, and only after rewatching it six or seven times and pausing it at crucial moments so I could examine exactly what was happening. I successfully cast on all 111 stitches at last, and knit away happily while Pat and I watched Gigi, which is a surprisingly awful movie for something that is allegedly a classic musical and that won a million academy awards.

The next morning, I measured the gauge on the cardigan so far, and found that it was way too f*&#cking big. What the hell? I knit swatches! I blocked those swatches! I even anticipated that the swatches might lie to me and I tried to correct for it, but apparently I did not correct far enough. Apparently the damn size 8 needles were the right choice after all, despite the fact that the swatch I knit with them came out a whole inch too small. Why should I ever swatch again? WHY?

So I ripped that whole night’s work out, and started over on size 8 needles, and now it’s coming along fine. Here’s a shot of cabley goodness:

Sigh, I love cables. I basically never get to do cabled knits here in southern California because the fabric they create is too dense for the warm climate. But these are more for decoration than warmth, and they’re paired with these lacy ladders between them, so I think this should work out fine. And can we talk about how gorgeous this yarn is?

This is Madelinetosh Vintage in the “Ink” colorway. Dark blue is basically my favorite color (though green is a close second), so it’s a little weird that I don’t have more dark blue knits. But that is changing…. now.

In conclusion, swatches are lying bastards and knitting sometimes makes me swear like a sailor, but I guess it’s all part of the learning process. You don’t get to be a Wise And Experienced anything without making a few thousand mistakes.