Wednesday, December 31, 2008

S.A.B.L.E.

For those of you who: a) are just now reading your first knitting blog; and b) have somehow managed to miss every one of The Yarn Harlot's books; and c) have never spoken to, emailed, or otherwise communicated with another knitter, S.A.B.L.E stands for "Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy".

I'm there.

This was my stash in March of 2007, when I started blogging:

Two bookshelves, neatly organized. At this point, I only had two knitting books and no magazines. In fact, I had only just started to explore the concept of "stash", for which I totally blame The Yarn Harlot. Before this, I knitted for 20 years by buying the yarn I needed for the single project at hand, finishing the project, and then moving on (I threw out any leftovers). It was only after I read the first of the Harlot's books that I realized I could stock up on yarn, patterns, and books. You know, in case of an emergency or something. I seem to have embraced the concept with a certain degree of enthusiasm.

This is what I saw when I opened the stash closet this morning:

That used to be the floor of the closet. The bookcases from the first picture are behind that pile (still full of yarn).

This is the closet shelf, up by the ceiling, not visible in the last picture [actually, this is the closet shelf after I organized it. The before was embarrassing in a way that had nothing to do with a simple yarn addiction]:

That, folks, is a lot of yarn.

I think that is officially more yarn than I can justify. Several hours ago, when I opened the closet and saw the mess, I thought, "Hmmm. Maybe I ought to take an hour or so and get this organized and photographed so I can put it up on Ravelry. Maybe I could even see if there's anything to destash. That seems like the sort of thing a person might do on the last day of the year, if she were the organized, resolution-making type."

I got out my camera and a legal pad and set to work unloading, sorting, photographing, and cataloging the yarn.

My camera battery died. Twice.

I have six pages of the legal pad filled.

And, four hours later, I have only half the yarn cataloged.

I'm afraid drastic measures may be in order.

To begin with, I have identified quite a bit of yarn for destashing. I think it amounts to about a quarter of the total stash, and that's just the yarn I can destash without any discomfort. If I want to dig a little deeper, there are several more yarns that could go on the block. So, for starters, I'm going to put all that yarn up for sale on Ravelry.

Second, as a corollary of sorts, I am finally going to catalog all of my yarn on Ravely, so that I can see exactly what I have, and I am going to put up any new yarn I may buy as soon as I receive it. Forcing myself to keep track is, to my mind at least, a lot like keeping a running total in my checkbook; it makes it impossible for me to ignore reality. It also gives me a place to "shop" without spending any money. I love to look at yarn online and think about what I would make with it. If my own yarn is online, I can look at it anytime, and I won't be tempted to break out my American Express Card (hey, I'm trying, okay?).

Finally, although I don't believe in diets of any sort (they only make me crave what I've decided I can't have), some sort of yarn-buying reduction plan is clearly in order. I don't do New Year's Resolutions (see "diets" above), so let's just call this a little personal growth challenge. A complete moratorium is clearly not going to work. But for the next year, at the very least, I am challenging myself to buy less yarn than I knit. A lot less. My goal is to find the floor of the stash closet by the end of the year.

This is how that floor looks now:

Those two cardboard boxes on the right are destash yarns, and somewhere in there is a large bag of acrylic and cotton yarns that I plan to donate to the elementary school's knitting club. The rest of the yarn on the floor is the amount of yarn I will need to get out of the stash to reach the floor. I know you can't see it well, so you'll have to take my word for it: there's about sixteen sweaters' worth there, plus spinning fiber (which doesn't count as yarn, but still needs to find a place on the shelves before the end of the year, which means it will have to take the place of some yarn already on the shelves--see how it works?).

Now, I can't knit sixteen sweaters in one year, unless I give up certain other activities, like cleaning and laundry and speaking to my children. Even if I could, that would only allow me to reach my goal if I bought no yarn at all for the entire year, and we've already established that is unrealistic. But about a third of the closet shelf is also currently filled with destash yarn. I figure, moving yarn up from the floor to the shelf as I destash is fair, and totally in keeping with the goal of reaching carpet in 2009, as long as something is moving out of the stash in some way, right?

And now I'm off to make pizza and taquitos for the younger units so that I can send them and their friends up to the media room with sparkling cider, while hubby and I enjoy filet mignon and champagne downstairs. Happy New Year, all!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Why I haven't been blogging:

Jury duty (still!)
One UTI
One migraine
Christmas
Hanukkah
Kids home from school (eternally, it seems)
A large dog with a back injury (three vets and counting)

and...

Just plain laziness.

Christmas was good. We had no house guests this year, which was much less stressful than last year's never-ending tag team of family members in search of a place to sleep and 24-hour kitchen service (I love my family, but...you know). There is some small chance that we have also turned the corner on the sibling-rivalry smack-down, although I'm reserving judgment on that. It could just be carry-over from the annual "if you don't stop smacking your brother, Santa is going to skip right the heck over this house!" threats that we always resort to at this time of year. We are in the midst of our annual holiday veterinary crisis, however. For the third year in a row, one of our pets has decided Christmas is the perfect time to have a medical meltdown. In the past three days, we've been to two vets, done one set of x-rays, and received four prescriptions, and I spent the morning on the phone looking for a veterinary chiropractor (yes, really) who could see her on short notice. After 30 calls, I found one that will see her tomorrow, but the office is an hour drive from our house. Think I can convince the kids it's a field trip?

I personally had a banner Christmas morning. My darling husband has finally bowed to the power of the fiber addiction and accepted that the only gifts I really want have to do with animal hair. I got extra bobbins for my Woolee Winder (which I wanted and requested), a skein winder (which I wanted but didn't request), and--my personal favorite--my very own body double!

She doesn't look exactly like me; there's that little matter of the missing head and limbs. But she is exactly my height and shares my exact measurements, and she's already proved her value. These shots were taken Christmas morning, right after I ripped out the enormous and time-consuming shawl collar on Amanda because there was something just so not right about it.

As soon as I put the sweater on Bertha (or Ruby, or Wilma, depending on the mood), the problem was obvious:

This is the back neckline, according to the pattern, before the stitches are picked up and knitted for the collar. See the problem? Yup. Way too high. But I couldn't see it when I tried the sweater on myself. It's not that easy to see the back of your own neck. With the sweater still on Bertha, I took out the bind off row and ripped back until the neckline was about the right height (this sweater is a bottom-up raglan, so this was simple). Then I bound off again and redid the shawl collar.

The end result is perfect, but I would not have discovered the real problem without Bertha's help. I shudder to think that I would undoubtedly have re-knitted the entire collar, only to have it still not fit properly, because the problem wasn't the collar in the first place. I'm not sure why this problem came up. My stitch gauge was correct. My row gauge was slightly smaller, which should have resulted, if anything, in a shorter raglan with a lower back neckline. The rest of the pattern was perfect, except that the sleeves, as written, would be too short for anyone over five feet tall (unless you're a T-Rex, in which case, knit away). I added three inches to the sleeve length, and they only fit because the yarn grew a lot with washing. If you're considering this pattern, do keep that in mind, and pay attention to the height of the back neck.

Modeled shots to follow, as soon as I can collar a photographer to help me out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Amanda

I have been knitting. I just haven't been blogging about it. The truth is, I was so disappointed with the way Autumn Leaves turned out that I haven't been able to bring myself to take FO shots. It fits fine. I just don't like it. Eventually I will bite the bullet and post pictures. In the meantime, I have been soothing myself with alpaca.

This is the body of Amanda (Ravelry link), from A Fine Fleece. The yarn is Reynolds Andean Alpaca Regal in mallard heather. The color is a bit darker and maybe a bit greener than in this picture. It's definitely not as bright as the picture suggests. My little point and shoot camera and I don't agree when it comes to color. This is as close as I could get.

I love this yarn (and the fact that I got it for less than half of retail from a destasher doesn't hurt). I have a long-established alpaca fetish in the first place, but this is especially nice. It is a heavy worsted/chunky weight, and it's spun (I think) a bit more firmly than most alpaca, so it seems to hold its shape better than most alpaca. There is a bit of wool in it, which helps. My swatches didn't change gauge at all with washing, which is a rare occurrence with alpaca, in my experience. I do expect it will stretch lengthwise with wear, especially since the yarn is quite heavy. I am adjusting my lengths accordingly, so I hope I am correct.

This cardigan is worked bottom up in one piece, the sleeves are worked separately, then attached to the body, and then the upper body and shoulders are worked together with raglan shaping. I don't like this approach as much as a top down design, because it doesn't allow for trying on and knitting to the proper length, but at least there is only a tiny seam to work under each arm at the end. The sleeves on this are designed to be rolled up, so I'm not too worried about the sleeve length, but I have been waffling about the body length. I have finally concluded that I should make all my sweaters about two inches longer than I usually do. I seem to like winter sweaters best when they hit at the lower hip, which is longer than most are designed to do. I keep finding myself tugging at the bottoms of my sweaters, even though I always add length. So in recent days, I have been going back and lengthening some of my favorites. [This is not difficult to do, by the way, as long as you have the yarn. If the sweater was knitted top down, of course, it's simply a matter of picking out the bind off, joining the yarn, and working some extra rows. But even if it was done bottom up, you can cut off the ribbing, pick up the stitches, and knit extra rows downward, then re-knit the ribbing. Or you can just lengthen the ribbing. There are lots of options. Just because you've been wearing the sweater for a while is no reason not to go back and modify it if it's not quite right.]

I've finished the body of Amanda up to the armholes, although I made add another inch, and one sleeve is done and awaiting joining. The other sleeve is almost half done and will probably be finished today. I've been dragging this project out deliberately, because I'm enjoying it so much that I don't want it to end too soon. The pattern is really lovely and soothing to work. The textured stitch is much more interesting than plain stockinette, but not at all taxing--perfect for tv watching or supervising kids or sitting around with family.

Eventually, though, I'm going to have to finish it and move on. My queue (and my stash) are rapidly reaching disturbing proportions. And there's still that little matter of the plainblackstockintettesportweightcrewneckpullover. Sigh.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Knitting Goes Mainstream?

Check out these decorations I spotted at the local Starbucks:

It's a yarn ball wreath! (Child not included.)

It wasn't for sale, but it would be super easy to make. I think I'd use styrofoam balls in different sizes and wrap them with yarn, then wire them together, with or without the glass ornaments.

And look at this (not a great shot, sorry):

Can you imagine how much more peaceful the world would be if everyone knitted? Clearly the person who designed this saw the connection.

These would make great holiday art projects to do with kids, or terrific Christmas gifts for knitters/crocheters. I may need to make a quick trip to the craft store.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

First, a public service announcement: the new Knitty is up!

Go. Check it out. I'll wait.

There are two sweaters I flat out love from this issue of Knitty (or, as I've come to think of it, "the Romi files"--she's got the cover again! Congratulations, Romi!):

This one is by Jordana Paige and is called "Amused":


And this one, by Norah Gaughan, is called Surface:

I must have them both. Now.

I've already swatched for Amanda from A Fine Fleece:

(Still can't get a decent photo of this one. Sorry.)

I've worked out the colorwork for my Transitions sweater and the yarn has arrived and is just awaiting my attention.

And I'm still on the hook for--say it with me now--aplainblackstockinettecrewnecksportweightblackcashmerepullover.

So many choices, so little time! Any guesses what I'll cast on first?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Yarnhog Screws Up

Yep. It's true. At least it wasn't knitting I messed up.

Anyone remember a few weeks ago when I had jury duty? No? Ah. Maybe I didn't mention it. I've been called for jury duty every six months for the past ten years. Each time, I've had the court-approved excuse of "small children for whom financially-feasible childcare is not available." This time, though, I had to admit that two kids in school all day and a husband who works at home (and could potentially pick them up after school), did not really count as a valid excuse. Also, I've always wanted to sit on a jury. So I went.

I got called in for a really interesting criminal case. There were three groups of 21 potential jurors, and I was in the last group. All of us were in the courtroom for the juror interviews. I sat listening to interviews for eight solid hours, and they never got to me. I couldn't knit, either. But it was really interesting, all the same. And even if they had called my number, I'm pretty sure I'd have been excused. I'm a lawyer (civil, not criminal), and lawyers generally don't get seated as jurors (although there was a young corporate attorney ahead of me who did get on the jury; all the more reason I wouldn't have made it, I suppose. Can you imagine two lawyers on one jury?)

Anyway, one would think that answering the jury summons would get me off the hook for at least...what? A year? Six months? But I got called again. Now, to be fair, the first summons was for state court, and this one was for federal court, and never the twain shall meet. In state court in California, jury duty is a one-day/one-trial service. You show up for one day; if you don't get seated on a jury, you're done. If you do get seated, you do one trial, and then you're done. I did my day.

Federal court is different. You are on call for a month. They send you a letter telling you when to call the court juror line, you call, put in your number, and the recording tells either when to show up, or when to call back. If you get called in, you go for the day, and either get on a jury or get sent home. Either way, you're still on call for the rest of the month. And you have to remember to call each day that you're told to call. I've been on call for over a week now, and it's been a challenge. Under the best of circumstances, I'm not that great with schedule changes. But having to wait until after 6 pm (when they post the next day's jury calls) to find out whether the next day is completely shot to heck has been frustrating. And trying to keep track of which days I have to call in has been an exercise.

So last night, between dinner and taking Older Son to Science Olympics practice, I forgot to call. I did remember that I forgot to call, right after I dropped the last kid off at school this morning. So I called in, and, when I discovered I was supposed to have been at the courthouse an hour earlier, "pressed three to speak to a jury clerk." Only there were no jury clerks in the office, which wasn't open yet. I debated whether to drive downtown (about a 40-minute drive) or wait until the office opened to ask for instructions. I waited. And waited. And waited.

I hate being late for anything. It drives me almost crazy. I'm always at the airport two hours early. If an invitation says "7:00 pm", I'm outside at five 'til, waiting for the clock to change. Even my kids were born early. It's pathological, I swear. So sitting and waiting for the jury office to open, knowing I was already an hour late was torture.

And when the office finally opened, I couldn't get through to talk to anyone. After roughly 50 repetitions of "All clerks are assisting other jurors. Please try your call later," I gave up. (Have you ever noticed that recordings don't care how loudly you scream?) I got dressed, put on makeup, and was doing my hair when my husband announced he had the jury office on the phone (thank God). They weren't very happy with me, but I'm pretty sure this sort of thing happens all the time. It must, right? The clerk changed my status from "failure to appear" (does that sound as ominous to you as it does to me?) to "time off". And told me to "be sure to call tonight."

I'm hoping this will help:

I don't know how I'm going to make it through another three weeks of this.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fickle?

Is it fickle if you start out a project loving the yarn and pattern, and then realize partway through that you really don't? Or is it just open-minded?

I am not loving Autumn Leaves. It is almost done, actually, just one button band to go, and I would have had that done last night had I not spent most of the evening ripping and reknitting and re-ripping and re-reknitting the yoke and the first button band (which I sewed in and pulled out three times), trying to make it accommodate a button spacing that would please me. I finally decided that it was an exercise in futility, because it wasn't really the button spacing that wasn't pleasing me; it was the whole project. At that point, I set it aside, because nothing about the project was going to make me happy anyway, and there was a good chance I was going to start ripping with abandon just for the heck of it.

Here's the work in progress, almost done, and looking even less appealing in the picture than it does in person:

I don't think there is anything wrong with it. The yarn is soft and squishy and warm (although I think I need some sort of intervention to deal with my addiction to buying variegated yarns that I invariably hate when they are knitted up), the seams are perfect, and it fits properly, or will after a nice soak and blocking. I just don't like it. I think this may be a case of "looks fantastic on the 20-year-old model, but have you looked in the mirror in the last decade?" I have the feeling I'm just going to look silly in this.

Still, it's almost done, and I have a really hard time leaving anything unfinished, so I'll be knitting up and sewing in that last button band today and moving on to the blocking. I'll have to find some buttons that will work, too. And then I'll do an FO post and you can all tell me the truth about whether I should wear this in public, 'k?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Love: A Review

I will apologize right up front for the quantity and quality of the photos in this post. The quantity is my fault; the quality, not so much. I will explain later.

Like most of you, I own a number of knitting books. Some are technique books, some are stitch dictionaries, and some are pattern books. Of them, the pattern books are the most fun; who doesn't love to look at beautiful sweaters, shawls, or socks? But they're also the books I "use" the least. I rarely knit straight from a pattern. Most of the time, I start with a pattern, then modify it to suit my body, my taste, and my yarn. When I do buy a pattern book, it is usually not because I want to use the patterns, but because there is one or more project that I find inspiring in tangible way, meaning I can base an actual project on it. Even when I love a book, like Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits, I rarely knit more than one project from it, at best. (In point of fact, I have not made a single project from Custom Knits, although I have done two top-down sweaters using techniques from the book since I bought it a couple of months ago.)

Which makes it almost shocking to me that I have come across a book with not one or two patterns that I want to knit, but a whole wardrobe of them:

This is an amazing book. It is organized around the concept of using handspun yarns to produce gorgeous, heirloom sweaters, and it is sort of generally directed at spinners, since it provides instruction on different fibers and how to spin yarns for specific purposes, but it is not a spinning book. One of the interesting aspects is that each project is shown in both a handspun yarn and a substitute commercial yarn, sometimes quite similar to the handspun, and sometimes completely different, which is particularly useful, since it illustrates how much power yarn choice has on a finished project.

But for me, the definite highlight is the patterns.

I love this take on a traditional aran:


Or how about this one? I never thought of an aran as "dressy" before.


And how could you not love this?

There's a men's and a women's version of this one. I love the collar.


This Chanel-esque one caught my eye, too, although I don't like either of the yarns they used for it.

And here's where I'll apologize for the photo quality. I took several shots of this and couldn't get a clear one. Then I realized it was blurry in the book. A lot of the photos are. Most of them showcase each sweater in two yarns, often with one in the foreground and one in the background, with one or the other out of focus. And many of the photos, while beautiful, are not particularly useful for a knitter who wants to get a clear view of the garment. They are either partial shots, closeups, or too far away, or they only show the back, etc. For almost every project, I found myself turning the page to see another view, only to discover there wasn't one. This is one of two major issues I have with this book.

It really irritated me with regard to this sweater, which made me gasp out loud with delight:

I love this sweater! See the texture? Not so well? Yeah, well, get used to it. The only other picture of this sweater is this one:

And yes, they are in "soft focus" in the book. That won't stop me from making this sweater; I have the perfect yarn in the stash, and I've been wanting to use it for a cozy, squishy cardigan. I'll make mine a little longer, and add some waist shaping.

Obviously, no book is going to appeal to everyone equally. If you don't like cables and textured patterns, and rustic, woolly yarns make you itch just looking at them, this probably isn't the book for you. It runs heavily to aran/fisherman-type sweaters with lots of cables and textured stitches, although as you can see from the pictures above, there are certainly other designs as well. There are also some scarf, hat, and sock designs. Most of the patterns are unisex, which leads me to my other major complaint: most of the patterns start at a 38"-40" chest and go up from there. If you are a plus size, you are well-covered with this book. If you're on the small side, be prepared to do some creative re-sizing, or swim in your sweater like the models in the book. (Most of the sweaters also lack waist shaping, and many have drop shoulders, so unless you're shaped like SpongeBob Squarepants, you may want to consider some modifications there, too.)

But despite what I consider to be fairly significant flaws, I really love this book. As a spinner, I especially enjoyed the section on different fibers. Ever wonder whether Romney is coarser or finer than Corriedale, or what the difference is between Blue Faced Leicester and Border Leicester? I know now! There's also a bit of information on blending fibers, estimating fiber quantities per project, etc., but nothing you wouldn't find in greater detail in a spinning book. As a knitter, I find the projects absolutely irresistible. There is enough quantity and variety here to keep me busy all winter. Now, if the weather would just cooperate...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who Said Anything About Cashmere?

Somewhere between avoiding the black, stockinette, sportweight, cashmere crew neck and working out how I want to design my Transitions sweater when my Silky Merino arrives, I discovered that this had spontaneously generated on my needles:

The yarn reminds me so much of the colors of fall leaves--I mean, as far as I remember; it's been more than a decade since I've seen any in person--that I just have to call this one Autumn Leaves. The yarn is bulky merino from www.handpaintedyarn.com, which, as I understand it, is the actual source of Malabrigo yarn.

You can order their yarns directly, but not the famous worsted weight singles that everyone calls Mmmalabrigo. That is only available through retailers at twice the price. This bulky weight is a ten-ply and appears to be machine-spun, but it is still hand dyed and just as soft as Malabrigo, only much, much cheaper. (Being a multi-ply, I expect it will also wear much better.) I have also bought their dk weight and their laceweight--wonderful, all. This particular colorway does not exist. It was listed under "odds and ends" about two years ago, and I've never seen it before or since. I bought all they had at the time, so it may in fact be one of a kind. To keep things interesting, I chose a pattern for which I might almost have enough yarn.

This is the pattern. I have modified it (of course). Mine is longer, has a bit of waist shaping, uses a different stitch pattern for the body, and will probably have a somewhat higher neckline. That depends in large part on whether I have enough yarn to do what I want. It's definitely going to be close, but I have an ace in the hole. Anyone remember this?

This is the cap I knitted for my son last year when he was instructed to "dress like a 19th century immigrant" for school. Same yarn. If necessary, it will become the ribbing for this sweater.

I have the back, both fronts, and part of a sleeve done. Ahhh, bulky weight! It'll be a few days before I get it done, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. And then I'll be, um, casting on the cashmere.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Earth and Sky

I have an idea for my next sweater project. Well, actually, it will be the sweater after next, since I owe my husband a cashmere sweater. Plain stockinette. Crew neck. Black. Sportweight. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to that.

But after that, I have an idea for a new project. Have you seen these? They are the Shibui Transitions gloves. I'd love to paste a picture here, but I don't want to steal anyone else's picture, so this is a Ravelry link.

Oh, okay. Here is a little picture from shibuiknits.com:

I fell in love with this design instantly. I love the way the color shifts from top to bottom (this is done with two solid colors, using fair isle colorwork). But I have no real use for fingerless gloves, and as we all know, I have a small sweater addiction I just can't shake. Still, this concept has been kicking around in my subconscious for a while.

A few weeks ago, I scored some Malabrigo Silky Merino in a Ravelry destash. I had been wanting to get my hands on some, and none of the yarn shops within driving distance carry it. So when I saw someone destashing four skeins for about half the retail price, I jumped on it, even thought the color was Cloudy Sky, a greyish-blue that I would never choose for myself:

With the exception of blue jeans, or the occasional navy power suit, I don't wear blue. I have red hair and olive green eyes, and blue isn't really my color. But the yarn...oh, the yarn! It is amazingly soft. Buttery soft. The sort of soft that makes you want to roll around naked with it. Or, um, maybe that's just me. But you get the idea.

Sadly, four skeins is not enough to make a sweater, even if I wanted a blue sweater. It is enough for a lace shawl, but I think we've beat that dead horse enough. So I've been waiting patiently for inspiration to strike.

Today it did.

I was checking the Ravelry destash pages today and found another knitter destashing eight skeins of Silky Merino for a very good price, this time in Redwood Bark, which appears to be a dark, reddish brown. Here's the picture from malabrigoyarns.com:

The pictures I've seen on Ravelry are much redder than this, so I suspect this is not a terribly accurate shot. But the basic idea works: four skeins of grey-blue + eight skeins of red-brown = one transitions sweater.

I'm thinking I'll base the shape on the Opulent Raglan. I wear mine all the time, probably more than any of my other sweaters. I love the deep, square neckline, and the elbow-length sleeves are not only surprisingly comfortable, but also much cooler than full-length sleeves--which is important when summer extends into December. So I think this will be a longish, fitted sweater with a deep, square neckline and elbow-length sleeves. The color will transition from blue to brown (or brown to blue; I haven't decided) somewhere around the midriff. I've never tried fair isle before, but I don't imagine it will be too difficult, especially with only two colors.

Did anyone else hear the KG laughing? No? Must have been my imagination.

Friday, November 21, 2008

FO: Not So Sahara


Pattern: Sahara from stitchdiva, sort of. I modified it to work with a heavier weight yarn and to create a shallower, shawl collar, and to have narrower sleeves and a different trim. But the basic shape is pretty much the same.

Size: Um. Maybe about 35".

Yarn: Cascade Ecological Wool in Chocolate, just over two skeins. This is a satisfying yarn. It's "minimally processed" and undyed, so it's still pretty woolly, but there was no vegetable matter and not much lanolin, as far as I could tell. It didn't smell particularly sheepy, either. But when I put the finished sweater in to soak, the water turned very brown. I thought, "Oh, look, the dye is running." And then I realized it's not dyed yarn. Ugh. I washed it four times before the water was finally clear. The finished sweater is also lighter in color. Amazing what washing out the dirt will do. The yarn is fairly soft even in the skein, and softens and drapes more after washing, but it's not what I would consider next-to-the-skin soft, although I am an acknowledged wool wimp and there are probably plenty of people who wouldn't be bothered by it.

Needles: Size 8 Knit Picks Options 32" circular.


Thoughts: I intended this to be a very basic, throw-on winter sweater, and I think it fits the bill admirably. I did add a tiny bit of fussiness by crocheting a little edging around the collar. I don't think it's my favorite sweater ever, but I do think it will get more wear than most of my sweaters, just because of its simplicity. I am a lazy dresser. My more impressive and dramatic knits always seem to demand more of an effort than I am willing to expend; it's the simple ones I reach for over and over again. Sounds like there might be a lesson in there, somewhere...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Endless Summer

I've finally figured it out. I know why it is still 90 degrees here. It's happened at last: the Earth is falling into the sun. Collect your loved ones and let loose with the terrified screams of your choice, because we're all going down!

Okay. Maybe I'm overreacting. But it is November-freakin'-14th and it was 90 bloody degrees here today. Again. I just can't take it anymore! What is a wool-loving sweater knitter to do? A whole closet of wonderful woollies just waiting for their moment of glory and I'm frantically looking for a clean tank top to go with my capri pants and sandals and double-layering the SPF 45. I can't even imagine roasting a turkey all day; do you think anyone would mind cold soup and popsicles for Thanksgiving dinner?

On an ironic note, I'm almost done with my Not-So-Sahara, which is shaping up to be the warmest sweater I've ever made. It's thick and cushy and woolly and delightful, and unless I move to Toronto (which hubby and I agreed, as we were sweltering our way out to the car, is a simply smashing idea), I may never get to wear it.

Hey, Santa? Forget the sleigh. Bring the surfboard. We'll meet you at the beach.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Accidental Vest

So I worked out the shawl collar. As you can see, I went with garter stitch, despite all the good suggestions you all made. I just couldn't quite picture how to work out any of the pattern stitches with short rows, especially when I wasn't sure how the short rows themselves were going to turn out. Now that it's done, I think I could have make a pattern stitch work, but this is okay, too.

My husband loves this as a vest. I pointed out to him that I don't wear vests, and he said, "You would if you had one like that." Which is probably a good point. I then explained that I need a winter sweater, to which he just laughed. We share a closet, so I don't really have a leg to stand on there, either. I am forced to admit that it would make a really nice vest with just a little edging around the armholes. But I still want a sweater, so I'll be starting the sleeves shortly.

As for the collar, I'm going to try crocheting an edging all the way around. It's a little plain as is, and I've got a craving for something a tiny bit fussy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Edging Toward the Finish

My Not-So-Sahara is knitting up quickly, and I think it's working out fine. I ended up having to play with the numbers a bit. With the larger gauge (16 sts. to four inches instead of 20 sts.), even the smallest size would have ended up too big. So I just used the measurements of the original, combined with my own modifications for fit, to come up with the right stitch counts.

This is my original Sahara, worked at the gauge called for in the pattern:

This is my Not-So-Sahara, worked at the larger gauge:

The fabric isn't washed or blocked yet, obviously, and will grow a bit when it is. Based on my gauge swatch (stop that laughing; I know gauge is just a myth, but it's all I have to work with), the finished sweater should be about two inches bigger around than it is right now, which should be about perfect, since I want this one to be a little looser than the original. As you can see, I've only got a few more inches before I reach the edging, which means I need to make a decision.

I'm having some trouble choosing a ribbing for this sweater. I'd like to do the cuffs and bottom in garter stitch, but I like all my ribbing to match, which means I'd have to do the shawl collar in garter, too. (It's a symmetry thing.) I don't really have anything against a garter stitch collar, and garter stitch is pretty good for hiding short rows, but it does seem a little bland. I could do a basic 2 x 2 ribbing, which I'd like for the collar, but I'm not sure I want that for the cuffs and bottom, since I don't want them to pull in. Whatever ribbing I use, it needs to be reversible, since both sides will be visible on the collar. And it needs to work with short rows, which most patterns don't. I've been through my stitch dictionaries and I haven't come up with anything I like all that much. I'm debating the possibility of doing everything in garter and then adding an interesting edging just on the collar, maybe along the lines of this, only less bobbley. (I actually made this sweater, but I left off the collar edging.)

If I can't come up with a better solution before I hit the bottom, I'll go with garter, but if anyone has any more interesting suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Not So Sahara


I bought this yarn some time ago. Well, okay, not that long ago, actually, but saying "some time ago" allows me to pretend that it has been in the stash for a while, and that I don't quite remember how or why it came to be there, and therefore bear no responsibility for its presence and/or purchase. Work with me, here.

It wasn't so long ago that I don't remember exactly what I bought it for; I bought it to knit Rogue. In a frenzy of lust a few weeks back, when it occurred to me that temperatures might, eventually, drop below scorching and require, maybe, a wool sweater--and in a fit of selective amnesia that allowed me to ignore the closet full of wool sweaters already awaiting such an opportunity--I came across Rogue (again) on Ravelry. I was seized with a sudden and powerful urge to castitonrightnownomatterwhat, and, as knitters yourselves, you know how pointless it is to even try to resist that particular urge, so I didn't. I had some yarn in the stash that I thought would be perfect, so I popped right over and downloaded the pattern. I printed it out (all 14 pages of it), but maternal duty called and I couldn't cast on immediately.

A few hours later, I sat down to read the pattern and thought, "Hmmm. That's a really long pattern. Maybe I'll just swatch for now." So I did. And the yarn that I thought would be perfect was decidedly...not. Too light, too fuzzy, too scratchy. I wanted a dense, soft yarn, but one that would hold up to a lot of wear. Something a little rustic, but still a little drapey, and not variegated, but not entirely solid, either. You know. The perfect yarn. And then, in one of those moments of serendipity sparked by a rather large glass of red wine and entirely too much time on Ravelry, I was struck with a brilliant idea: I would buy the perfect yarn and it would be Eco Wool! Eco Wool gets rave reviews from, oh, just about everybody, and I have in fact touched and fondled and considered using it a time or two myself; I have even kept it in the back of my mind as the sort of yarn I would remember if I ever came across the right pattern. If you are familiar with Eco Wool, or even if you are not, but are the sort of knitter who considers matters such as yarn weight and gauge, you may be thinking, "Hmm. That's an interesting idea. I wonder if Eco Wool knits to the gauge called for by Rogue." And it would have been quite useful to me had you been there when I placed the order, because I didn't think about it at all.

A few days later, the yarn arrived, and it was perfect. Rustic and soft, dense and drapey, solid, but not too solid. Perfect. But not for Rogue. Rogue calls for a worsted weight yarn. Eco Wool is an aran weight. And while I could probably force it to knit to 18 stitches to four inches, this is a yarn that is clearly more comfortable at 16 stitches to four inches. And, yes, I could just modify the pattern, but I am lazy, and was already planning to make the smallest size, and besides, it occurred to me that I don't really like hoodies anyway. (What's that? Fickle? Why, no, not at all!) But it's true; I don't like hoodies. I like the way they look, I just don't like wearing them. The hood always pulls the neckline back and makes me feel like I'm choking, and then it wads up behind my head when I sit in the car, and gets in the way of my purse strap, and I always wish I had just made a collar.

But I still love the yarn, so I have been on a mission to find a great use for it. I have searched Ravelry, and the entire Drops pattern line, and every knitting magazine I've ever bought. Nothing has quite done it for me. There were a couple of close calls, but I've always pulled back at the last minute. That great Drops cardigan? Awesome. Really. But I don't like A-line anything (emphasizes the butt, no thanks). And I could modify it to be more shaped--that would be cool--but I'm not sure about the buttons just at the top. How about a basic turtleneck? Oh, yeah. Wool around the bare neck=sweater that never gets worn. Maybe a cardigan? Well, maybe. But I really need a pullover I can just toss on.

Finally, I accepted that I was going to have to come up with my own design. I enjoy designing sweaters. But, as we've already established, I am lazy. I don't always want to go to the trouble of coming up with my own design. Sometimes, though, there's just no alternative. So I started thinking about what I wanted. Some time ago, I made shawl collar sweaters for my boys. I didn't have a pattern, but it wasn't that hard, and I was pretty happy with the results. I always thought I'd like to try making one for myself. I like a nice, cozy shawl collar, and I don't own any. I don't want a boxy sort of sweater, though. Recent projects have taught me (slowly and painfully) that: a) I am smaller than I believe I am; and b) fitted sweaters are more flattering on my not-so-endowed body than oversized ones. Which means I want a sweater that, though not clingy (I'm going for cozy, remember), is still shapely. Enter waist shaping. And a shirttail hem would probably look really nice with that, wouldn't it? Maybe with a garter stitch hem and cuffs. And perhaps some slightly drapey sleeves to offset the fitted shape?

And then it occurred to me: I was picturing Sahara, only with a shawl collar and garter stitch edging and a different gauge.

Well. That simplifes matters considerably, doesn't it? Sahara is a fabulous pattern (and it's top-down, to continue my on-going love affair with all things seamless). Both the mechanics and the finished product are elegant and pleasing. I've wanted to make another since even before I finished my first one. I've never made the same pattern twice, but with the changes I have in mind, this won't actually be the same pattern. I need to spend a little time with the calculator, but I think I can adjust for gauge by simply knitting a smaller size. And I think I can just pop a shawl collar into the existing neckline, too. One way or another, it will be an interesting experiment. I'm off to cast on!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rule Breaker

I don't really follow many knitting rules. I mean, there are the obvious do's and don'ts (do swatch, don't steam block acrylic, do measure, don't put hand-knits in the washing machine), but other than those sorts of useful guidelines, it's pretty much anything goes around here. I knitted myself a bikini when I was 17. And wore it.

But I do have one firm, albeit unwritten, knitting rule: No Knits Below the Waist. I just can't see hand-knitted fabric doing anything positive for anything I have below the waist. So I am at a loss to explain this:

It just sort of appeared on my needles while I wasn't paying attention. And as much as I've told myself it is a bad idea and ill-advised and clearly a mistake, I can't stop working on it, around and around and around.

The style is based on this tulip skirt (Ravelry link), but the shape and sizing are entirely different, since I haven't completely taken leave of my senses (or my eyesight), and recognize that a skirt that wraps tightly around my butt and thighs would not only drive me crazy but would very likely result in indecency charges.

So I shaped mine to fit at the waist and then skim (I am hoping) over the various curves that I prefer not to emphasize, before dropping straight to the knee, where it will flare out again to about mid-calf length. This is the plan, anyway.

To be sure I could get this up over my hips (I know knitted fabric is inherently stretchy, but I'm not taking any chances), I created space for a zipper at the back waist.

I also plan to turn the waistband under and insert either elastic or a drawstring to help with the shaping. To that end, I worked an eyelet row, which, when turned, should give a little picot edge at the waist.

Although the color is not terribly accurate in these pictures, the yarn is a warm, golden tan BFL. It is a long-since discontinued Berroco yarn, and I got about 2100 yards of it at the local knitting guild's destash sale. It's been in my stash for quite a while because I couldn't come up with a project that would use so much worsted weight yarn in such a neutral color. It's great for this project, though. The yarn isn't as soft as I would choose for a sweater, but it seems very sturdy and has a subtle sheen. I can picture this skirt with boots and a jeans jacket. I can't really picture it on me, but I can picture it. So I guess that's a start.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Envelope, Please...

Maureen over at 5 and a Beagle gave me this award!

I am always so touched when someone tells me they like my blog. I think most of us blog as much for ourselves as for our readers (maybe more), but really, if no one reads it, what's the point? It's like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it.

My favorite part of getting an award is getting to pass it on to other people whose blogs I love. There are a lot of you. My blog roll has reached a size that makes it impossible for me to check every blog every day. I'd love to give this award to dozens of blogs that make my day on a regular basis. But in thinking about it a little, I realize most of you have lots of readers who also love you. So this time around, I'm going to pass the award on to some lesser-known bloggers who also have great blogs, in the hopes that you might enjoy them as much as I do, and maybe make some new imaginary friends.

The rules for award acceptance are as follows: 1. The winner can put the logo on their website/blog. 2. Add a link to the person who gave you this award. 3. Nominate at least 5 other websites/blogs. 4. Provide links of the nominated websites/blogs. 5. Leave a message at each website owner that you've nominated.

I am nominating:

Lynn of Fibra Artysta, who is a fiber artist in Michigan. She makes gorgeous art quilts, plays with fiber, and knits.

Patty of Fibreholic, who is a new-ish mom and, as she puts it, a "homesick Newfoundland and Labradorian with a passion for historical 'women's work' - now called 'crafts' - which generally use fibre."

Janet of On The House, who is a new knitter and knit blogger (and my friend and neighbor).

Sarah of Nibbling Along, who used to blog at Bella Knitting, but now has her own blog about knitting and cooking. She is an awesome cook and often posts absolutely terrific recipes that tempt even me into the kitchen.

Andrea of At Home Mommy Knits, who knits, sews, cooks, and does some really cool craft projects.

And crochetgurl, whose real name, I am chagrined to admit, I don't know. Despite the blog name, she is a knitter (a relatively new knitter, I believe) and a fellow San Diegan, although I met her on Ravelry. She has some great projects, including some really cute little critters.

Thank you to all of you for keeping me entertained and inspired. Now go spread the love!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

FO: Kochoran Scoop

This has been done for over a week, but temperatures here have yet to drop below 80 degrees, and it's been over 90 several days. It's tough to even bring myself to step outside, much less to do so while wearing a bulky wool sweater. This morning I got out early, so it was only uncomfortable, rather than sweltering.

The details:
Pattern: Mine. Top-down raglan in stockinette with deep scoop neck. Sleeves picked up and knitted down to the cuff. Waist shaping and 2x2 ribbing at neck, cuffs, and bottom.
Size: 34"
Yarn: 5 1/2 skeins Noro Kochoran. I love this yarn! I only wish I lived somewhere I could actually wear it.
Needles: Size 8 KnitPicks Options circulars.

The fabric did grow on blocking, exactly as I expected, even though I knitted at 16 stitches to 4 inches, which is pretty firm for this yarn. I did end up lengthening the body by about an inch before blocking, because I decided the bottom ribbing was too loose and ripped it to reknit on smaller needles. While I was there, I gave into my own sizing demons and added a little length. I am happy with how it turned out; I think I would have spent a lot of time tugging on the bottom if it were shorter. This is the only correction I had to make for the entire sweater, even though I was working without a pattern.

Thoughts: This turned out almost exactly the way I pictured it in my head. The only thing that's slightly different is the scoop neck, which I had pictured a little narrower. I am very pleased with the design; it is simple and shapely and was a pleasure to knit. I think it would look better on a curvier shape, but there is only so much I can do with needles and yarn!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cop Out

I know it's a cop out, but I'm having trouble getting around to posting these days. I have an FO to show you, and a new project, and a Crack-Me-Up-Saturday...but none of them are ready. So I give you instead My Greatest Virtue:

Your result for The Best Thing About You Test...

Honesty

Honesty is your greatest virtue.


Honesty is the human quality of communicating and acting truthfully. This includes listening, and any action in the human repertoire — as well as speaking. And you? You cannot tell a lie. Both loved ones and strangers should trust you, because you won't (1) lie, (2) lie via omission, or (3) sit there and let lies be told. (Can you even let a sleeping dog lie?) All 7 virtues are a part of you, but your honesty runs deepest.


Your biggest risk is hurting the feelings of your most sensitive friends. However, most appreciate you for your candor.


Honest famous person: George Washington, if you believe the propaganda.


Your raw relative scores follow. 0% is low, and 100% is perfect, nearly impossible. Note that I pitted the virtues against each other, so in some way these are relative scores. It's impossible to score high on all of them, and a low score on one is just relatively low compared to the other virtues.


YOUR VIRTUES


10% Compassion


67% Intelligence


38% Humility


78% Honesty


63% Discipline


43% Courage


25% Passion

Take The Best Thing About You Test at HelloQuizzy

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday

I may have mentioned once or twice that I am not a morning person. I know there are people out there who happily pop out of bed before dawn and twirl through the house singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!" while greeting little birdies in the window and whipping up gourmet breakfasts for their friends and family...at least this is how I picture them. I've never been awake enough before dawn to really be sure. My morning routine is a little different. I'll spare you the ugly details. Suffice it to say that, even as a small child, I had a certain reputation. My older siblings used to argue over whose turn it was to wake me up for school. My college roommates learned fast to keep the noise to a bare whisper when arriving home in the wee hours, no matter how drunk they might be. And my husband...well, he's a brave man, and a cautious one.

So you can probably imagine that I was less than thrilled to learn that the bus to the middle school, where Older Son is required by law to go five days a week, picks up down the street a full hour earlier than I am accustomed to leaving the house to take the kids to school. Since I was already struggling to make it to the elementary school on time and sufficiently clothed to avoid a scandal, certain measures had to be taken. One of those measures is that my wonderful husband and I now take turns getting up in the morning. We are self-employed and work at home, which means that, barring an early meeting, neither of us needs to be up at a set time to race to an office and punch in. (It wasn't always this way; we deeply appreciate the luxury.) And so, while two mornings a week, I do get up before dawn to wake surly children, make breakfast, and sign homework before heading out the door to walk Older Son to the bus stop, only to head home and repeat the process with Younger Son, two blissful mornings a week, I hear the alarm clock go off and stick my head under a pillow to drift dreamily back to sleep while my husband gets up to face the music, as it were.

You may have noticed, though, that there are five school days in a week. What happens to the fifth day? Not to worry; we have a plan for that. As long as we've been married, we've had a system for dealing with disagreement. If it is a minor thing, like who has to change a diaper or go see who's crying, we play "Paper, Scissors, Rock". Loser goes, no argument, the sanctity of PSR is unbreakable. It's quick, simple, impartial. And it works beautifully. But it lacks a certain...drama. There's no skill. It's over too quickly. And there always the potential for manipulation. Delaying that half-second until you see what your beloved opponent is going to do. (Not that I would ever cheat. And contrary to what my dear husband believes, mind-reading is not cheating.) So for bigger issues, like who has to bathe the dog, who has to make dinner, or where the kids should go to college, we play Yahtzee. It saves tremendous time and energy. And really, when does arguing ever solve anything? Yahtzee, though...Yahtzee solves problems. (My husband and I are both lawyers. Can you imagine how much simpler life would be if people just played Yahtzee to decide legal disputes? Not to mention cheaper?)

For the fifth day, we play Yahtzee.

By mutual agreement, the fifth day is actually the first day of the week. Monday. Notorious Monday. Every Sunday night, after we get the kids to bed, we settle down for a deadly serious Yahtzee battle. One game, no do-overs, no double or nothing. Winner gets to sleep in; loser has to get up and wrangle Monday. As it turns out, my husband has gotten up every Monday this school year. (No, I do NOT cheat!) Until, I should clarify, today. Last night, I failed to perform up to my usual standards and actually lost at Yahtzee. So this morning, when the alarm went off, I dragged my half-sleeping carcass from the bed, whimpering all the way, found some clothes that may or may not have been clean--or mine--and woke Older Son. I staggered downstairs, scrambled eggs, toasted bagels, found clean clothes for him, put breakfast on the table, and started to clean the coffee pot in the feeble hope that caffeine might somehow make life worth living. Older Son bounded into the room (he is a morning person; imagine my joy), chattering a mile a minute, glanced at the clock, and stopped dead. "Mom, it's Monday!" he exclaimed. Yes, light of my life. I had noticed that very thing. "So?" I grunted. "But it's Monday!" he repeated insistently. "Yes, we've established that," I managed to get out without snarling. He looked at me, wide-eyed, perhaps noticing the dangerous look creeping into my eyes. "Mom," he carefully put the kitchen counter between us "it's late start day!"

Late start day. Right. Monday. School starts an hour and a half later on Monday. An hour and a half that I could have been sleeping. Which I might have remembered if it hadn't been so bloody dark out when I got up.

If anyone needs me, I'll be sobbing quietly in the corner. Bring coffee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Move Along, People...

...nothing to see here. Return to your homes...

{Is she gone yet? The KG, I mean?}


The body of the Kochoran Scoop is done. I even picked up and knitted the collar. That was a little tricky. Since the diameter of the opening got smaller as the ribbing got longer, I had to do something to prevent the ribbing from flopping over as it grew. I did the collar in 2 x 2 ribbing, and I didn't want to decrease part way through and change the look of the ribbing. Instead, in the bind off row, I purled two together for each purl rib as I bound off. This pulled the ribbing together and seems to be preventing the flopping, but I won't really know until it's blocked. I have accepted that I may need to redo the bind off if the collar relaxes too much after washing.

I am expecting quite a bit of change after washing. I used Kochoran for a sweater coat I made, and the fabric changed dramatically when I washed it. It became much, much drapier and looser, and the coat grew more than four inches in length, as did the sleeves! To prevent such a huge change with The Scoop, I worked at a tighter gauge and also made the entire sweater shorter and more fitted than I ordinarily would. I am hoping this will not backfire on me. I will be really annoyed if this doesn't relax after washing. It fits now, but it's pretty snug, and about a inch or so shorter than I want it to end up. I think this will result in a post-washing sweater that fits perfectly, but it's still a gamble.

I'm working the first sleeve now (picked up and knitted down in the round, natch!), so I should be done with this in a few days. Good thing: since I've discovered the destash group on Ravelry, the stash is going to need its own zip code soon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Scoop

So Silver Belle was a grave disappointment. I am still planning to make it, but I'm debating whether to use the same yarn and rework the pattern, or use a light worsted/dk weight and knit the size small. I found someone on Ravelry who is my size and who successfully made one, but she did the small and took out two cable repeats. I say again, what is wrong with this pattern?

Let's not dwell on that now, though. I have another project to share. I'm a little reluctant to even show you this one, because it seems to be flying under the Knitting Goddess's radar and I don't want to jinx it. It's going so nicely, though (knock on wood), that I couldn't resist.

This is my Kochoran Scoop, so named for the Noro yarn (oh, angora fuzz, how I love thee!) and the deep scoop neck. It was inspired by Kolsva, which is a Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton design using Kochoran. In fact, I bought the pattern book intending to make Kolsva. I like the simple, fitted shape and deep scoop neck. But I don't like the saggy cowl and I don't really want to knit it in pieces and sew it up, because, you know, I'm really loving the top-down, one-piece knits these days. And then, the original is really too short, and I want long sleeves, and...

So, in a small fit of pique after ripping Deep Purple, I wound up some skeins of Kochoran I had in the stash (I think I got this from The A.D.D. Knitter in a destash a few months ago--thanks, Heather!), and without benefit of pattern, plan, or calculator, I cast on with reckless abandon.

And wouldn't you know, it fits perfectly and I haven't ripped once.

Considering the fates of some of my recent, carefully-considered, well-thought out, agonizingly- planned projects (what round yoke jacket?), I'm not sure whether to be happy or annoyed. I've decided to go with "happy" for the time being.

Because, really, what's not to love?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ripping My Heart Out

I did it. Fast, like a bandaid, so it wouldn't hurt. It did anyway.

Thank you all for the advice and support. I did email Cynthia (from the comments), only to discover that her peplum, which she thought was too big, was smaller than mine. By a lot.

Still, wanting to be sure, I took Deep Purple with me to my knitting group this morning, to get an unbiased opinion from knitters not emotionally invested in the project. They laughed. Out loud. It was suggested that it might make a good table skirt.

And in case you're still not convinced, I decided mid-rip that I really ought to lay it out flat and measure the thing, since it was off the needles anyway.

My dining room table seats eight comfortably; ten in a pinch. I could always use it as a table runner, I suppose.

I did, at least, think to take complete measurements of every part of the peplum before I ripped. I measured and noted and calculated. So I guess you could say I just made the world's largest gauge swatch.

I also discovered source of the problem. As I mentioned before, the gauge for the peplum is not given in the pattern, nor is the finished measurement of the bottom of the peplum. But there is a measurement on the schematic (in the wrong place, but there all the same) for the top of the peplum, where it joins the bodice. There is also a stitch count for the top of the peplum. If I were the sort of person who thought ahead in this way, I could have figured out the gauge for the peplum by comparing those two numbers before starting to knit. As I am not that sort of person, I only discovered this connection today. Taking those two numbers, the required gauge for the peplum works out to 7.88 stitches to the inch. This is in aran weight yarn. My gauge for the peplum in aran weight yarn on size 6 needles is 6.5 stitches to the inch. Over 428 stitches, that is a difference of 11.5 inches. Even if I had made the size small to begin with, there is no way my gauge would have given me a finished product that corresponded to the actual or perceived size of my body.

So the next time you wonder if gauge really matters, the answer is a resounding YES!

But I am a little miffed by the whole experience. The pattern, to be honest, sucks. I know; I don't like to criticize other people's creative work, either, but if I had paid for this, I would be royally peeved. (For those who don't know, this was a Vogue Knitting "cover pattern" bonus from their anniversary issue, and is available as a free download from the VK website.) But this pattern is a Debbie Bliss design, which I understand is a reprint from one of her books. If I had paid for a pattern book to get this, I would be outraged. The only gauge given is for the seed stitch part of the bodice, the schematic does not show measurements for several important parts, and some of the measurements that are given are clearly incorrect. But what really confuses me is how anyone could ever get the required gauge with aran weight yarn. 20 stitches and 30 rows in seed stitch is almost doable (although I had to use a size 5 needle to get close), but nearly 8 stitches to the inch for the cable section? Most of the successful finished projects I've seen on Ravelry used worsted weight yarn or lighter, not aran. And most of those were modified to make them smaller. So I am baffled as to what the designer had in mind with this one.

But at least I got "free yarn" out of the deal.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Giant Purple People Eater

I've got about five inches of the peplum for Deep Purple (aka Silver Belle) done, and people, this thing is HUGE! I'm not even sure how to measure it, because the stitches are all bunched up on my 40" circular, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that two of me could fit in here. That ball of yarn in the middle is what's left of a 250 gram hank of aran weight yarn. I am at an impasse. I think this is just going to be too big. And we all know my tendency to make sweaters that are too large. In this case, the situation is complicated by the fact that the only gauge given in the pattern is the gauge in seed stitch, which only comes into play in the bodice and sleeve section, and is therefore no use at all in figuring out one's gauge in the cable section. Add to that the fact that the measurements in the schematic are clearly incorrect, and I feel like I'm swinging in the wind here.

The impasse I mentioned? Ah, yes. That would be my reluctance to rip out several days of work (I did mention the 250 gram hank I've almost knitted up?) without being absolutely certain that this is going to be too big. I'm not sure exactly how much evidence I need to make that determination. Apparently the fact that I wrapped this thing around the widest part of my hips and it created the wooly equivalent of a gigantic tutu is insufficient evidence that it will not miraculously block out into something that gracefully skims over my hips without making me look like I'm carrying twins.

A couple of hours on Ravelry have alerted me to the fact that at least several other people have had similar experiences with this sweater. I suspect the reason in some of those cases, including my own, is that the required gauge is very odd. The given gauge is 20 stitches to four inches in seed stitch on size 8 needles with aran weight yarn. Seems reasonable-ish. But when I swatched, I had to go down to a size 5 needle to even get close to that gauge, and the resulting fabric was stiffer than I would ever choose to knit. I am, admittedly, using a different yarn than that called for, but it's hard to see how it could be that different. For the peplum, I used a size 6 needle, reasoning that I didn't want to struggle with cabling so tightly and it would make little difference in the finished size.

This may have been an error.

And so, my dilemma: To rip or not to rip? That is the question.