A Tale of Two Sweaters

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Every knitter knows “the sweater curse”: if you knit a sweater for somebody with whom you are in a romantic relationship before you marry them, your relationship is doomed. It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense: for one thing, a sweater is a huge investment of time and energy, which might make the recipient uncomfortable. Furthermore, a sweater rarely comes out exactly perfect, which might cause the recipient to not want to wear it much, which might create tension in the relationship. The theory is that if you’re committed enough to each other enough to marry, then your relationship can stand the strain of a possibly-wonky sweater. Or else it’s magic. Who knows? What I know is that I flouted this ancient wisdom once in my youth, and I reaped the consequences. In my case, I think the actual sweater didn’t have any direct effect on the end of that relationship, but I was not fool enough to test the sweater curse twice. Though Pat had been asking me to knit him a sweater for years, I refused to do so until we were married. His marriage proposal, which was written down for me to read, ended with the words “now look at the sweaterless guy over there,” where he was kneeling with a ring.

So how could I do otherwise than to knit him a sweater immediately after we got married? I had to finish my brother’s blanket first, which you can read about in the previous post, but once that was done, this sweater was the first order of business.

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The pattern is Reece by Jane Ellison, from Queensland Collection Book 9 — yes, I had to track down this obscure print book to find the pattern that my husband wanted. That’s love, folks. He wanted something pretty plain and not flashy, but he was also fairly particular about what that meant, and there just aren’t as many mens’ sweater patterns out there as you would like. The pattern called for knitting the sleeves flat, though, which I hate and avoid whenever possible; I knit them in the round from the top down instead, just from measurements and math.

The yarn is KnitPicks Swish DK in the “dusk” colorway. The zipper came from Zipperstop, a website that will sell you a zipper in a custom length & color. I hadn’t intended the color of the zipper to be quite so much brighter than the yarn, but Pat decided he liked it that way. I also decided after about two minutes of trying to sew in the zipper myself that I would just pay a tailor $20 to have it professionally installed, which was better for everyone. I did manage to hand-sew in a zipper once, but it was on the sweater for He Who Shall Not Be Named, and maybe the less we can repeat that situation the better.

This past winter, I also knit my very first pullover:

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Cardigans tend to make more sense in southern California, but I do wear pullover sweaters in the winter, especially at night in our apartment where we tend not to run our ancient inefficient gas heater & just pull on layers of clothing and blankets. And I had loved Norah Gaughn’s Lempster since its debut in Knitty in 2013. I especially loved it in the original yarn, Berroco Abode, a thick-and-thin yarn with a lovely speckling effect — I just didn’t like any of the samples showing up on Ravelry in more conventional yarns nearly as much. However, when I decided to finally knit Lempster this past fall, I was dismayed to find that the original yarn had been discontinued. Fortunately, this had happened recently enough that I was still able to find it for sale at a variety of places; it was just hard to find sweater quantities in colors I liked. I couldn’t find the original blue colorway in sufficient quantities, but I eventually decided that the muted purple of the River colorway would also be very nice, and that’s what I settled on.

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I made a few modifications to the original: I knit the sleeves full-length, and I did the cable motif on the back also, as you can see here. This sweater is not for the faint of heart: in addition to the charts’ being complex, the construction (especially at the beginning) is really confusing, and in a few key places the directions are just plain wrong. The following Ravelers’ notes were key in helping me figure out what the heck I was doing: FuzzyPumpkin, Sophie7toes, Ephiphonora, and Handstitch. Another issue I had was that in blocking, this thing grew like 4 inches of length, which I ended up just unravelling. The Berroco Abode was super sticky and GREAT for unravelling without losing more stitches than you intended — which was, alas, something I had to do a lot in this project. I got to be an expert at fixing messed-up cable crosses several rows back without unravelling whole rows, which there really ought to be a knitters’ trophy (or at least a merit badge?) for.

But I really like how it came out, and the Berroco Abode makes a sweater that is lofty and lightweight while still being warm — it’s great for chilly California winter days, which is in fact when these photos were taken. But don’t worry: soon enough you’ll see me sweating in the summer heat while bravely sporting fall and winter wear for the sake of getting through my project backlog!

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I’ve Been Busy

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A funny thing happened in 2015 when I swore I’d get back to this blog: I got married. And planning a wedding, it turns out, eats up a lot of time. My job keeps me pretty busy during the school year as well, and once you get behind in a blog, it gets harder and harder to catch up. But I’ve got a stack of knits that I “can’t” wear because they haven’t been photographed for the blog yet, which is profoundly stupid, so I’m going to try to get this thing on its feet again!

So let’s start with my wedding shawl, pictured above. The pattern is Serangoon by the brilliant Asa Tricosa, and the yarn is “Bloom” from Reywa Fibers in the “Picnic” colorway. I was never one of those girls who daydreamed details of my wedding my entire life — to the dismay of my wedding planner, who would ask me things like “what do you want the flowers to look like?” and get an answer like “I dunno, nice?” — but I will admit to having picked out a wedding shawl pattern at least a year or two before my boyfriend actually proposed. The minute Serangoon hit the internet, I knew I loved it so much that I would have to literally get married in it. Just look at that gorgeous border!

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The turquoise color I didn’t decide on until I walked into the yarn store and was seduced by Bloom’s 50% yak / 50% silk deliciousness. I was already pretty sure that I didn’t want a white wedding shawl, because I wanted to be able to wear it ever again, and this yarn purchase ended up dictating the color that my whole bridal ensemble revolved around. Behold:

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I should also mention that my dress was sewn by my friend Jackie, who was one of my bridesmaids. She also sewed her own dress, and my other bridesmaid Kit wore a handmade dress also, sewn by her mom. This wasn’t particularly planned, but as a craftsperson I thought it was pretty awesome. (I personally suck at sewing, btw.) Here is my lovely bridal party; my bridesman Michael was, alas, not wearing a handsewn suit:

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That’s Kit on the left, and Jackie on the right. Michael is the one in the suit. Aren’t those flowers nice? After forcing me to make a Pinterest board to express some preferences, my infinitely patient and magical wedding planner (Ashley from Thread Events) went to the LA flower market on the morning of the wedding and made those bouquets herself.

Okay, fine, I didn’t intend this to be a “look at my wedding” post, but now it feels weird to show you my bridal party and not my groom, so here you go:

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My now-husband Pat has been responsible for nearly all the photos on this blog for forever, so please give him a round of applause. Also, yes, those are dinosaur cake toppers. We had a dinosaur-themed wedding. I’m now realizing I need to show you even more wedding photos, because the one wedding craft I did besides my shawl was to spraypaint a million dinosaurs gold for the centerpieces:

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And the favors:

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My brother also got married in 2015, about six months before I did, so I naturally I knit Serangoon’s sister shawl for his wedding: Tiong Bahru. I don’t have any pictures of it in action at his wedding, so I made Pat take these photos yesterday:

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It’s got that same lovely edge as Serangoon, but it’s in a shawl rather than a wrap form. Unfortunately, I no longer have any idea what yarn I used. My husband is trained to Never Throw Away A Yarn Label, No Matter Where You Find It, but I’ve checked my several stashes of them and can’t find anything that looks like it was for this yarn. I think it was a laceweight alpaca blend?

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I didn’t feel like putting on my fancy sister-of-the-groom dress for this quick photoshoot, but this shawl did match that dress super well:

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Just use your imagination, I guess!

Okay, so I swear on an imaginary stack of holy books that I am going to work over the next few weeks on blogging my backlog of projects. Showing off knitwear on the internet is half of why we make it, right? See you soon!

To New Adventures

IMG_5815Some news: I taught myself to embroider over winter break! Also, Pat and I got engaged! We spent the holidays apart, with our respective families, and during that time I secretly taught myself to embroider and made this pillow here as a Christmas present for Pat. He proposed shortly before we exchanged gifts, but he says that if he hadn’t been planning to propose anyway, this pillow would probably have done the trick.

Even if you’re not particularly familiar with Daniel Johnston, you’ve probably seen this frog-guy before, perhaps on Kurt Cobain’s t-shirt, or in Austin, TX. All the images here are from his artwork, and the words are lyrics from his song “Sweetheart.” I bought the pattern for the images from Sublime Stitching, though the arrangement of elements & colors are my own choices. Here’s a close-up of the frog:

IMG_5816I used split stitch on him, and satin stitch on the mouth. He was the first element I embroidered; later on I discovered vine stitch, which I used on the clouds, and I like it better than split stitch because it’s neater.

I got the idea for this whole project from knitting Totoro in December. I’d done incidental embroidery before in my knitting, but never considered myself very good at it until that project, where it was crucial that I make Totoro’s face look awesome or the whole thing would end up looking creepy. I was pleased with how well I did, and realized that embroidery is not actually very difficult — it’s basically just tracing plus patience. I’d already discovered Sublime Stitching through their french knot tutorial I used for my Zeldaphant, and in poking around again when I was working on Totoro I found the Daniel Johnston patterns, and that made the light bulb go off in my head since Pat is a big fan. Furthermore, I had a substantial collection of embroidery floss leftover from my summer-camp friendship-bracelet-making days. That’s right: with the exception of the dark green for the frog, 100% of this embroidery floss dates from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

IMG_5818The clouds here were made using vine stitch, which I ended up liking the look of better than split stitch. The sun’s rays are backstitch, and the sun itself is of course satin stitch.

One of the choices it turns out you have to make when you’re embroidering from a pattern is how to transfer that pattern to your work. I decided to buy an embroidery transfer pen (which washes out with cold water), and use my parents’ windows as a crude lightbox to trace my printed-out images onto the pillow cover (which is also from Sublime Stitching, by the way). Another choice I considered was iron-transfer pencils, but I don’t think that they wash out, which was a dealbreaker for me — I didn’t want to count on myself to make zero mistakes while tracing, not to mention zero mistakes while embroidering to cover over the lines I drew.

IMG_5822The eyeball monster here was also made using split stitch. I didn’t start experimenting with vine stitch until I made the clouds.

I now realize that I didn’t even necessarily need to buy a pattern, because a person could theoretically trace anything onto fabric and embroider it. That’s how I made the lettering at the bottom — I just found a font on my computer that I liked the look of, and printed out and traced the words I wanted to embroider. Here’s a shot of the whole design laid out flat, where it’s a little easier to see everything than when it’s on the pillow:

IMG_5810Yay! I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long — I’ve been knitting, but I also recently started a new job that’s eating up tons of my time. I hope to catch you up on some of my knitting soon!

This little bit in the corner I drew freehand, which is cool because it’s recognizably in my handwriting:

IMG_5821 So here’s to new adventures!

Vintage/Modern

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My parents are cleaning out their house in vague preparations to downsize and move sometime in the next year or two, and one of the things my mother unearthed was this great 1975 pattern book for Brunswick yarn, along with an unfinished crochet afghan she’d been making from this book in the 70s and a whole bunch of yarn that had been earmarked for the project. There are some great pictures in this thing! The top photo is my favorite; it’s from the back cover.

Here’s the front cover. I guess it’s the same model, but it’s not quite as amusing as her sassy cigarette pose:

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Upon reflection, though, very little about this picture makes sense. “Oh, it’s just little old me, in my glamorous makeup, wrapped up in this giant afghan, crouching on the ground outside.” Maybe she came over for a fancy barbecue (if that’s a thing) and drastically underdressed for the weather?

But the real prize for absurdity has to go to this shot:

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My mom calls this a “James Bond girl shot,” and I think she’s onto something. “Dahlink, vhy don’t you step into the kitchen for a drink and some snuggles?” The pattern for that dress is in this book, too, and interestingly the only sizes for the clothing in this booklet are 12, 14, and 16 (with bust measurements of this dress coming in at 41″, 43″, and 45″). They probably intend for some positive ease, but I think that speaks volumes about how size standards have changed over the years. (And about how knitting patterns have become more user friendly, presented in a wider array of sizes!)

Here’s one more gem for you:

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Oh yes, you can knit her all-yellow outfit if you choose!

I elected not to finish my mom’s crochet afghan, for several reasons. (1) I’m not much of a crocheter. Even though it was a simple shell pattern and would have been within my abilities, it would have been tough to work on in front of the TV, where is where I do 95% of my knitting. (2) She’d given up on it because her gauge had gotten wonky, so there would be some significant fixing I’d have to do. (3) There were eleventy billion ends to weave in already, and the thing wasn’t even half done. And (4) there was enough of her yarn leftover for me to just knit a blanket myself that would be both more fun for me to work on and more functional as an end product — shell stitch produces a fabric full of holes.

I decided to just freestyle a garter stitch blanket, in part because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to determine how much yarn I actually had, since the labels on this yarn list its weight in ounces but bizarrely not its yardage. After I’d embarked on this plan, though, I thought to look the yarn up on Ravelry and lo and behold, there it is despite its being long-discontinued: Brunswick Germantown. I have the older 4-ounce skeins, and I could have calculated my yardage and followed a pattern, but I’ve been having so darn much fun doing this that I see no reason to stop:

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I’m using the Mason-Dixon Moderne Baby Blanket as inspiration, but I’m not really following the pattern at all — just deciding for myself what colors will look best where. The main insight that pattern gave me was the idea of using intarsia to break up rows into multiple color blocks, which you can see that I’m doing on the top right now and already did on the right hand side. I’d never actually done intarsia before, but it turns out to be stupidly easy and basically exactly like fair-isle knitting except you don’t carry the strand along with you; you just knit in blocks and twist the strands at the color changes. I expect that the hardest things about it are following complicated patterns that call for it and keeping your tension even at the transition points, but here the “pattern” is dirt simple and the transitions are easily managed. I’m having so much fun with this thing that I’m finding it really tough to put down, despite the fact that it’s growing into a sizable wool blanket and it’s the middle of August! Of course, it’s also been a shockingly mild summer here in southern California, and the hottest months are probably ahead of us — September and October are usually the worst. So this blanket probably won’t be finished until the fall, but it’ll be a fun thing to pick up now and then until the cooler weather hits!

Be My Winding Wheel

Would you believe that I haven’t had time to write up my Pacific Northwest trip yet because I’ve been too busy knitting? Well, I have — I’m going back home to California tomorrow, and I’ve been busting my ass to finish that giant blanket before I leave. I’m going to leave you in suspense about how it’s going for now, though, because I have so much about Seattle and Portland to tell you!

Above, you see one of the knitterly highlights of my trip: my first experience spinning on a wheel at my friend Vanessa‘s house. It was hard to get the hang of it at first, but once she gave me a few tips I was able to spin a few decent yards. This is the Ashton Kiwi, which I’ve heard wonderful things about, and it seemed to work pretty well. It was a little stunning to realize how much faster I could be spinning if I had a wheel, which I guess would be both good and bad: good because more yarn, bad because more money spent on fiber.

It was lovely to see Vanessa, and she pointed us to some important Seattle landmarks, such as the statue of Vladimir Lenin, who was still decorated for the holidays:

And the giant bridge troll:

And, of course, some local yarn shops. Pat was a very good sport about all the knitting-tourism I wanted to do! The first one we hit up was Seattle Yarn in west Seattle, a neighborhood that Pat & I really enjoyed. The shop was well-stocked and the owner was friendly, and I came away with these:

The picture’s a little crappy, but this is two skeins of Berroco Alpaca Fine, in a very interesting colorway: dark blue with a red halo.

We also made it to Weaving Works via some minor hilarity. It was Vanessa’s most highly recommended shop, but we initially didn’t think we’d have time to fit it in. Then one afternoon when we were staying with my friend Miriam, our second Seattle hostess, Pat and I found ourselves sitting around her house one afternoon at 4:30 without much to do. I looked at Weaving Works again online and realized that it was only about a 10-minute drive from Miriam’s place… and that it was closing at 5:00. So we dashed to the car and got there just in time for me to be able to poke around. I got this lovely yarn:

This is Soxie from the Great Adirondack Yarn Company, in the somewhat strangely-named “copper” colorway. But perhaps the most interesting thing about Weaving Works was all the giant baskets full of fiber for sale by the ounce. It was difficult to choose, but I eventually came away with this:

This is a little more than 4 ounces of merino fiber in a stunning blue colorway that seems to have been carded with bits of pink, purple, and green. I’m super excited about it, and really glad we managed to squeeze Weaving Works into our trip.

That’s me and Vanessa. I highly recommend you check out her brand-new knitting blog — it’s already got some thoughtful and interesting posts on knit-bombing, switching from Western to Continental knitting, and sweater alterations, among other things!

After Seattle came Portland, where we stayed with my friend Jim for a couple of days. Jim was a marvelous host, treating us to craftsman whiskey and to mead that he’d brewed himself, and  showing us jazz, karaoke, and lots of wonderful restaurants. He is not, however, much of a knitter — heh. But I met up with my friend Karel one afternoon and we took a trip to Yarnia, a magical land where shop patrons get to make their own yarn by selecting single strands to ply together in a big old-fashioned cone-winding machine that I tragically did not get a picture of. After a few different experiments and swatches, this is what I came up with:

It’s three different purples — one of them a fuzzy mohair — and a strand of glittering gold. The gold was Karel’s stroke of genius; I liked the combination of purples that I’d come up with, but it didn’t feel enough like a one-of-a-kind yarn yet. I’m super excited about it!

Other Portland highlights included Powell’s bookstore, Multnomah Falls, and blacklight-pirate-minigolf, but this post is already getting quite long!

I have just one more yarn acquisition to show you. After Seattle and Portland, Pat and I came back to the east coast where I’ve been visiting my family. On a snowy trip to New York City, I began to develop cowl envy — I was wearing my Infinitude Scarf, but it seemed insufficiently snuggly for the wind and snow. So you shouldn’t be surprised that I fell head-over-heels in love with these skeins when I saw them hanging in a vendor’s stall in Union Square:

This is a bulky-weight one-ply merino from Catskill Merino, and I love it to pieces. I shall knit it into a huge bulky cowl that I will almost never wear on the west coast, but I’ll love it next winter when I come back east again!

Holiday

Sorry to leave you hanging for so long — I’m sure you’ve all been teetering on the edge of your seats waiting to find out whether I managed to finish the scarf for my brother in time for Christmas. As you can see in this crappy late-night self-portrait, I did. This is actually a pre-blocking shot, but I didn’t really stretch it in the blocking process — I just washed it and laid it flat to soften and relax the fibers. It spent about 24 hours blocking (on December 21st) in the basement before my brother came home for the holiday, then I had to transfer it to a hidden spot in my bedroom so he wouldn’t see it while it continued to dry. I got it wrapped and under the tree by the 23rd, just under the wire — my family opens our gifts to each other on the 24th!

The pattern for the scarf is Palindrome, and it’s basically a reversible version of the ubiquitous Irish Hiking Scarf. (Both are free patterns — hooray!) I’ve never knit the IHS, but I imagine that the Palindrome scarf is denser and uses up more yarn because of the reversibility, which is mostly accomplished via ribbing. That’s right, reversible cables! It was my first time working them, but they turn out to be pretty easy and I’m glad that I now know the trick. The only modification I made to the pattern was adding another row of cables — at just three cables wide, it seemed too narrow, so I did four.

My other holiday project, which I never bothered to photograph, was a beadless version of Abrazo for my mom, by special request. It looks more or less exactly like my earlier one linked there, because I even used the same yarn! So, no photo.

Besides The Great Scarf Scramble, you may recall that my other crazypants winter-break plan was to knit Jared Flood’s new Leaves of Grass shawl in bulky yarn as a blanket and to block it here at my parents’ spacious house and then mail it back to my tiny California apartment. This ran into a snag when (1) the blanket-in-progress, which I’d mailed to my parents’ house, arrived several days later than it was supposed to, and (2) I realized I’d forgotten to pack my longest Knitpicks interchangeable-circular cord. So I had to order another one of those, which took another few days, and as a result I missed out on the valuable days on and around Christmas when our house was inundated with relatives and all there was to do was to sit around and chat with them and knit. During that time, I instead made swift progress on my Port Ludlow socks, which are now almost complete:

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I’m only a few repeats away from the toe on the second sock.

I finally was able to start on the blanket again, though, and I’m making progress. I’m a little worried that I won’t finish in time, but I have a girls-only craft night scheduled on Monday where I should be able to put in a solid three hours or so on it. From this picture, it may not be easy to tell how much progress I’ve made, but it’s been going pretty well:

Fingers crossed! And while I was busy taking this picture, Max came to the very reasonable conclusion than a furry object of this size and shape was obviously a dog bed and plopped down right in the middle of my shot:

What? This is for me, right?

I have also started yet another project, mostly because I was worried about running out of sock to knit on the plane back home, but also because I’d promised Pat some new handknit socks for Christmas New Year’s Valentine’s Day and I happened to come across the perfect yarn:

Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s Madelinetosh Tosh DK in a colorway called “Cosmos,” which I thought was interesting-looking but still quite manly. And look! I’m knitting them magic-loop style! This is the first time I’ve ever done that, and it turns out to be very easy and quite possibly less annoying than using doublepointed needles. When Wooly Monmouth, the new(ish) LYS near my parents’ house, was out of size 2 DPNs, the lovely owner Dori gave me a three-minute magic loop lesson and assured me it was a technique I’d be glad I learned. And I am! I can’t say enough good things about Wooly Monmouth — helpful staff, gorgeous yarn, Madelinetosh for miles — so if you live in or ever visit the Jersey shore, I strongly encourage you to go! The pattern I’m using for these socks is the dirt-simple Blueberry Waffle Socks, since they’re written for DK-weight yarn, easily customizable, and stretchy (so sizing will be easy).

And speaking of holidays, I’ve just come back from a week-long trip to Portland and Seattle — but I’m going to make you wait until next time to hear about it!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Sorry to disappear for so long, but I’ve been a little busy. In the last three months I have: hunted for and found a new job, hunted for and found a new apartment, moved into said apartment and started said job, all while finishing and filing my dissertation. That’s right, you are being toasted by Dr. Doublepointed, Ph.D.

Raise a glass!

I’ve been knitting, but I haven’t been blogging about it– so I’ve got some catching up to do. I’m going to spread it out over the next few days/weeks, since most of my summer projects haven’t even been photographed yet. I stuck virtuously to a yarn diet all summer, aided by being too busy to browse for yarn and being too worried about my financial future to buy unnecessary items. So everything I knit this summer was knit from my own handspun, or from stash yarn. Yay!

What you see in these pictures is my finished Montego Bay scarf. As you may recall, I spun this yarn from merino/silk fiber that I bought on sale from A Verb For Keeping Warm ages ago. I’m really pleased with how this turned out, and I highly recommend the pattern for handspun yarn — it’s very forgiving of uneven texture, and it makes color-pooling actually look pretty good. I ended up getting about 400 yards out of 4 oz of fiber, and that made a lovely long mesh scarf with braided fringe.

Watch this space — I’ll have more FOs coming at you soon, with my exciting new city as the backdrop!