Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Tale of a Shawl--A Story in Pictures

Laura and Sarah over at Bella Knitting are having a contest. The goal is to produce a knitting story entirely in pictures. Here's mine

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Swatch Me Knit

So, I know I said I didn't need to swatch for the CPH because I've worked with Malabrigo before and have a whole sweater to use as a gauge swatch. But I kind of got to thinking, it's not a great idea to tease the Knitting Goddess like that. So even though we all know that math lies and gauge is a myth and swatches don't bear any relationship to reality...I knitted a swatch.

And to my complete surprise--although why I should be surprised by anything that happens while swatching is beyond me--instead of the 19 stitches and 22 rows to 4 inches that I got consistently with size 8 needles over the course of an entire long sweater coat, I got exactly the 17 stitches and 24 rows to 4 inches on size 8 needles called for by the CPH pattern.

I checked it three times. And then, because I am savvy to the ways of the swatch, and it occurred to me that this could be due to a variation in the thickness of that particular section of yarn, or an unconsciously more relaxed tension due to wishful thinking on my part, or the alignment of the planets...

I swatched again with a second ball.

And I got 17 stitches and 24 rows to 4 inches. Again. At this point, I am pretty much certain that this is a setup. This is not reality. This is the Knitting Goddess snickering behind her hands, because there is just no way I could have enough yarn (Malabrigo--on sale) of exactly the gauge called for to knit exactly the sweater I want to do at exactly the time I want to do it.

Then again, maybe it's these:

Have you seen these? These are amazing. Beautiful. Perfect. These are the new Knit Picks Options wood needles. See all the pretty colors? They're much prettier in person. If you already have the Options nickel-plated needles, these work with the same cables. They are grabbier than the nickel-plated needles, but not as grabby as bamboo needles--or at least not as grabby as the 20-year-old bamboo needles I've had since college ( I really in college 20 years ago?! Excuse me for just a moment; I'm having a small personal crisis requiring a little deep breathing intervention. Stand by.)

Okay. Uh...needles. Right. These are grabbier than the nickel plated needles, which I love and would ordinarily use for this sort of sticky wool, but...these are new. And colorful. And this is my first chance to use them. So I am. And this could be responsible for the gauge difference, because the wool isn't sliding as easily and I have to tension a little looser to keep it moving. That is the logical explanation.

I prefer to believe that it is simply because the needles are so darned beautiful. You know how beautiful people always seem to have the best luck and are the most popular and successful? (Not that I would know from personal experience; let me know when they start handing out the goodies for being a gawky nerd.) I think the sheer beauty of these needles is casting a little knitting magic over this project and I am experiencing a minor miracle.

Either that, or it's the Knitting Goddess, setting me up for a big fall.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Wing and a Prayer

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably remember the saga of Icarus (FO pics here) the wedding shawl. If you haven't, you can read about it here, here, here, here, here (my personal favorite), and here. I told you it was a saga. Or, if you just want the short version, Icarus was my first (and so far my last) lace shawl. I made it as a wedding shawl for a childhood friend, and the project was fraught with yarn breakage, dropped stitches, 500+ stitch rows, and running out of yarn just rows from the end, days before I was originally supposed to give it to her. And then, the bridal shower was put off for three months, so Icarus has been living in a ziploc bag in my yarn closet since I finished it, amid minor hysteria and possible drunkenness, in October. This, therefore, is a momentous occasion:

This is Icarus, getting wrapped to go to its new home tomorrow. There is a bridal shower tomorrow in Saugus, about three hours from my home. There will also be another in town in February, but--naturally, considering the nature of this entire experience--it will be held on the one and only Saturday of the entire year when I will be away on vacation with my family. So tomorrow, I will be driving the six hours round trip to attend the Saugus shower--through a raging rainstorm, if the weather channel is to be believed.

Getting Icarus wrapped is almost like packing to go to the hospital to deliver a baby. After the many long months of planning and work and surprises and small tragedies, I'm just ready to get it over with. I've been asked how I can bear to give it up, and whether my friend will appreciate it.

I can bear to give it up, because it was never mine in the first place. From the moment of its conception, Icarus was hers. I was just taking care of it for her. And although it came out better than I ever anticipated--and certainly better than I had any reason to expect--that just makes me prouder to be able to give her something that is beautiful, rather than just handmade.

Will she appreciate it? Of course she will. She will appreciate the thought and effort that went into creating something special just for her. She's not a knitter, so she has no way of knowing just how much thought and effort went into this particular gift, nor would I tell her, even if I knew of a way to convey an understanding of the hundreds of often-stressful hours it cost. That's not the point, is it? The point is that I know that I have given her something of myself; something that she will probably keep and remember forever. I know that every stitch holds my prayers for her happiness and well-being. And that's really what this gift is about, after all.

Any bets as to whether I will actually make it to the shower without any further disasters?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's...

...the Central Park Hoodie!

That's right, folks. Meet my new project, the ubiquitous CPH. I'm a little slow jumping on this particular bandwagon. I'm not much for bandwagons, actually, but when it's such a lovely little project and I happen to have on hand eight--count 'em, eight--skeins of Malabrigo worsted that I scored at a great discount on Destash, what's the point in resisting just for the sake of resisting?

The gauge is probably going to be a bit finer than the pattern calls for. I say "probably going to be" because I have not swatched. I have worked with this yarn before, though, and I have a completed and washed finished garment to judge by. I suspect that I'll be able to just knit one size larger than I usually would and end up with a finished sweater the right size, but I'll be spending some quality time with my calculator before pursuing that course of action. I know math lies, but I believe in second chances.

This color is called "Vaa". It is hard to describe. Hard to see, in fact. It is a very dark, olivey green and midnight blue combination. Some parts are almost black, and there are occasional section with lighter bits, but mostly it's just...dark. The picture is pretty accurate. The colors are more subtle than most Malabrigo combinations (remind me to show you pictures of the orange-purple-brown nightmare hiding in my stash sometime), and I think it will work really well for the CPH.

Have I sufficiently distracted you yet? Have you forgotten that I promised FO pictures? I didn't think so. Here's the thing: I love the rain. We need the rain. But the rain is seriously messing with my FO mojo these days. Every time there is someone here who can actually take a modeled shot (someone more than four feet tall, that is), it is grey and drizzling outside. As soon as the sun makes an appearance, I find myself completely alone in the house. So that FO picture will just have to wait until the weather and my family both cooperate.

In the meantime, I have a small favor to ask. I have a friend who is new to blogland--and new to knitting to boot--and she's just not feeling the love. We've all been there: new kid in town, everyone's already got their own group, no one says hello. So if you have a minute, stop by and make her feel welcome. It'll make her day!

Monday, January 21, 2008

"You'd Better Go Back Inside"

I do have a new FO to show you, but it was necessary to wet block it, and since it has been raining for the past couple of days, the bulky alpaca is taking quite a while to dry. I'm hoping it will finish drying today and that there will be sun tomorrow for a quick photo shoot.

In the meantime, Patty of Fibreholic tagged me for a book reading meme. Since it's an easy one, I can answer it now, even though I still have eight hours of CD's to get through. The task is to open a book you are currently reading to page 161 and copy the fifth sentence on the page.

Page 161, sentence 5 reads:

"You'd better go back inside."

That's scintillating, isn't it? The book is The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini. Most of it is much more interesting. If you haven't read it, you'll have to take my word for it.

I am supposed to tag five people, so I am tagging:

Melissa of melissaknits
Sophanne of beckyknitstoo
Sarah of bellaknitting
Romi of rosemary-go-round
Tammy of tammyknits

If you don't want to play, that's okay. And if I didn't name you and you do want to play, that's okay, too! We're inclusive around here. Besides, I'm hoping for some good book suggestions.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Because You Make My Day

Romi of Rosemary-Go-Round awarded me this:

and I am more touched than I can say. We all blog because we want to, but if no one read or enjoyed what we wrote, what would be the point? Knowing that someone relates to what we have to say, or finds our words funny or enlightening or inspiring, is what makes the blogging world go round.

And now, as part of my award, I get to pass the award on to ten bloggers who make my day. According to the instructions, I am supposed to: "Give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times."

So, without further ado, and in random order, I pass this award on to some of the bloggers who make my day every day:

Sophanne of beckyknitstoo
Melissa of melissaknits
Faith of nomoresweaters
Sarah and Laura of Bella Knitting
Olga of uberstrickenfrau
Heather of A.D.D. Knitter
Tammy of Tammy Knits
Sharon of Chickenlips Knitting
Annie of Sheepish Annie
Steph of And She Knits, Too

These are far from the only blogs I read, and certainly not the only ones I love. But every one of these makes me smile regularly, and I did give extra credit for posting more often, since it means these blogs make my day more often than those that don't post as frequently. If I didn't name you, it doesn't mean I don't love you!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Just Call Me "Highness"

I'm still listening to MCLE's. Here's a little something to keep you entertained until we can resume our regularly scheduled blogging:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Royal Highness Suzanne the Elegant of Fiddlehope in the Marsh
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


What I'm doing this week:

This is three years' worth of MCLE (mandatory continuing legal education), which I need to have completed by February 1st in order to renew my license. So, naturally, I started it this week. Oh, what? You'd have done it months--if not years--ago, huh?

What I'm also doing this week:

Because, you know, that's a lot of CDs. The color is not really that orange. It's more of a rusty brown. This is Elsebeth Lavold Chunky Al (wool and alpaca single ply--this is color 006). It's very soft and kind of springy. I like it enough that I've had to exercise significant restraint to keep from buying more. Except, of course, for the fast-becoming-obligatory rescue yarn. Once again, I will not have enough yarn to finish the project. Fortunately, this color was still available, and still on sale (a perk of being unable to resist immediately casting on new yarn), so I ordered a couple more balls. I think one will be enough, but you never know.

And this is the project. It is a delightfully simple and satisfying Elsebeth Lavold pullover, for which I happened to have exactly the yarn called for in my stash (minus two balls). This is the first, and probably last, time I have ever knitted a pattern in the yarn specified. I've almost managed to knit the pattern as written, too, but the body and sleeves need to be longer. And I want waist shaping. And I want a collar that folds over a little more. And I think I'm going to knit it on instead of knitting it separately and then sewing it on. But other than that--I'm totally sticking to the pattern!

I haven't forgotten all your wonderful and supportive comments on Sable and the Kochoran Coat, either. In answer to the many who expressed surprise at how quickly they were finished, I'm not really that fast. The Kochoran Coat knitted up very quickly because of the bulky weight, and the fact that I loved the yarn. Also, it was, during the two weeks I was working on it, actually cold enough to wear such a garment in San Diego, and I didn't want to miss my window. I did get to wear it--once--before the temperature returned to the 70's, which is pretty much par for the course here.

Sable (aka Tangerine Nightmare) had been languishing, half-finished, for months. When I ran out of yarn for the Kochoran Coat and had to order more, I seized the opportunity and made a bargain with myself that I had to finish Tangerine before I could finish the coat. So while I was waiting for my rescue yarn to arrive, I plowed through the last few rows of the body, the sleeves, and the collar of Tangerine, and dyed it. I also sewed in the coat sleeves, wove in the ends, and made and sewed on the buttons. The next day, my rescue yarn arrived, and I promptly knitted the collar and sewed on the last button, wove in two ends, and voila! Two FO's in two days. It's just a matter of timing. Also, while it's true that I am tall (nearly six feet), I am also skinny, with only a 34 inch chest, so my projects probably knit up faster than for those of you who are well-endowed.

As for publishing, I'm working on it. I did in fact design, knit, and write up the pattern for a really lovely little project to submit to the spring issue of Knitty. And then it rained for a week straight, right before the submission deadline, and I couldn't get a decent picture. I will probably submit it for the summer issue, instead.

A few of you have asked about my modifications for the Tilted Duster. Here they are:

I made the 36 inch size. If you're making a different one, please take that into account.

For the neck, I picked up stitches around (you can use the stitch count in the pattern, or use whatever method you usually use), and then I worked decreases EVERY RS ROW using the same decrease method used for the decreases in the skirt, so that the neck edge mirrors the front edge of the skirt. I continued to work the collar until it was the length I wanted, then bound off in pattern.

For the sleeves, I cast on 50 stitches, worked 4 rows in garter stitch, then made a bell-shaped cuff in 2x2 ribbing, decreasing every other RS row (using the same decrease as on the body) until I had 34 stitches. I made my cuff six inches long, then switched to stockinette and started increasing every 1 st. each end every 6th row until I had 60 stitches. I worked even until the sleeve was the right length, then shaped the cap. Please note that I had already made the armholes wider (9 inches instead of 8) to accommodate a wider sleeve, since I'd heard the sleeves were way to skinny in the pattern. I believe I had to fudge the sleeve cap a little to make it a bit taller. Based on my notes, I think that, instead of binding off when I had 14 stitches left, I continued to bind off three stitches at the beginning of each row until I had only six stitches left, then bound off the cap. This worked really well.

I also made the body longer, by simply continuing to increase/decrease as established; I finished the bottom edge with 4 rows of garter stitch, since I didn't like the way the stockinette was rolling.

I sewed hooks and eyes down the front to close it, although I hadn't done that yet when I posted the picture. Depending on the weight of your yarn, you could also use a zipper of almost any length, or close it with a pin, or attach ties...

And, finally, just for Sharon, here is a close-up of the buttons on the Kochoran Coat:

I bought two little packs of polymer clay--one in silver and one in white--from the local Michaels. I took a little of each color, kneaded them separately to soften them, then kneaded them together to make a swirly sort of design. I rolled the clay into a skinny snake, then sliced off short sections, smoothed the ends, and used a toothpick to make holes. I put them on a piece of aluminum foil and stuck them in my toaster oven at 240 degrees for about 30 minutes. It really could not be easier, or cheaper. I'm already thinking about making more for my next project, which will be a cardigan. But first things first. It's time for "Successful Trial Techniques and Strategies in Employment Law Litigation." Be still, my heart.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

FO: Kochoran Coat

Here is it, all finished! My rescue yarn arrived earlier this week, and I knitted up the collar, sewed on the last button, and wet blocked it yesterday.


Pattern: My own. The body is worked in stockinette with two wide cables on the front and two more on the back, with another running up each sleeve. The ribbing and collar are worked in rice stitch. The collar buttons up to cover the neck. the body was worked all in one piece with set-in sleeves. I used this method because I did not want to try to match Noro stripes at the seams, especially since the fronts are narrower than the back, which would make for wider stripes in front. The drawback was that the body became extremely heavy while knitting and made my wrists and hands ache. I only wish I had added pockets on the sides. I'm sure there is a way to put them in now, but I know it would involve steeking, and, well...

Yarn: 11 skeins (100 grams each) of Noro Kochoran in color 001.
This is a very dense, heavy, soft blend of wool, silk, and angora. This is a bulky weight yarn. Do not believe the label, which gives a gauge of 4.5 stitches to the inch. I got a gauge of 15 stitches to four inches while swatching, and a post-blocking gauge of 14 stitches to four inches. (The finished coat came out a bit--okay, a lot--larger than I had planned.) The yarn is fairly rough in the skein, but softens as it is worked, and even more after washing, as the angora develops a lovely halo over the fabric. Wet blocking makes a huge difference. Before blocking, the coat was much shorter and wider--so much so that I was not really pleased with the shape. After blocking, the body grew about four inches in length and became correspondingly narrower. The sleeves grew about two inches in length, which is why they are a bit too long in the pictures. I am happy about the drapey, oversized shape, although it was an accident, but if you're using this for a fitted garment, wash and measure your swatch before casting on.

Needles: Size 9 Knit Picks Options 32" circular

Buttons: 8 polymer clay toggle buttons in a grey/white combo, which I made to match the coat. It was an experiment, since I've never worked with clay before. I couldn't find any buttons that I liked locally, and I was shocked at how expensive they are online. During a trip to the local craft store for another project, I stumbled across the clay aisle and thought, "Hey, I'll bet I could make buttons." Five dollars and an hour later, I had a matched set of buttons to match my coat. I will undoubtedly be using this method more in the future.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

FO: Sable

Tangerine Nightmare has a new name to go with its new look. May I present...Sable:

Pattern: Tilted Duster by Norah Gaughan, from the Fall 2007 Interweave Knits. (Except that it's totally different. For details, see here.)

Size: 36. Do not be fooled into believing that, just because you have a 36 inch (or in my case, a 34 inch) chest, knitting this size will fit. The body is narrow and the sleeves cannot possibly be wearable by any normal-sized human. I made these sleeves two inches wider than the pattern calls for, and I have the skinniest arms on the planet, and they just. barely. fit.

Materials: Louisa Harding Kimono Angora in an almost unimaginable orange and magenta colorway. (I'm not sure if it was ugly or beautiful. But staring at it for any length of time did make me feel a little nauseated--hence the dye.)

Dye: One bottle RIT dye from the grocery store, in black, which resulted in this actually quite lovely shade of heathered chocolately brown, flecked with black and purple, which I am calling sable.

Needles: Size 8 US Knit Picks Options circular.

For pictures of the same sweater in its original colorway, please click on the link under "Pattern" above. It's amazing the difference a color change makes! I would be very interested to see which one you prefer.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Sweater Formerly Known as Tangerine

Tangerine Nightmare is no more. I dyed it. It was an interesting experience. Following Tammy's excellent advice, I dyed a swatch first. I am embarrassed to admit that this did not occur to me independently. Apparently, I am incapable of transferring even hard-won knowledge from one context to another.

Here is the swatch, floating in a bath of warm water, which I gradually heated to bring it up to dyeing temperature, in the hopes that I could prevent felting.

After it had warmed up sufficiently, I put it in the dye bath for half an hour, keeping the bath at a steady 140 F (60C). This was the result:

I know this looks black on the screen. In fact, it is a chocolate brown with purple undertones. It is interesting, but not quite what I wanted. So I prepared the dye bath for the sweater with twice as much dye, and took the plunge.

I simmered the sweater for an hour, stirring it gently and frequently and praying constantly to the Knitting Goddess to keep it from felting. And it didn't felt! Oddly, it also didn't turn black. Just like the swatch, it came out dark brown with purply blotches underneath where the original magenta was. I know it looks black in the picture--my camera does not recognize the actual color. I can't blame it; I'm not sure I recognize it either.

This is The Sweater Formerly Known as Tangerine, drying in the laundry room. When it's dry, I'll take a good look at it in natural lighting (it's still raining and once again 4:30 pm here). There is a decent chance that it will end up being a pretty heathered espresso sort of color. But in the event it ends up looking more like dog poop, does anyone know whether I might have better results with a different dye? I used RIT dye from the grocery store (don't laugh), which I understand is a combination of two types of dye, only one of which actually works on animal fiber. The preferred dye for animal fiber is acid dye, which I didn't have. Can anyone tell me whether it would be worth trying to overdye it with acid dye? Advice is quite welcome. In fact, I probably should have asked for it, um, earlier.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

FO: Tangerine Nightmare

I have finished Tangerine Nightmare. Allow me to apologize in advance for the dreadful photos. It is 4:30 pm and pouring down rain, and the only person I could get to photograph it for me was my seven-year-old son. The photo session went like this: "Which button do I push? Oh, okay...wait, that's a little blurry. Um...I only got your butt in that one...I think you'll like this...oh, never mind. Let me take another one. Uh oh. I think I pushed the wrong button...should it be doing this?" In all fairness, he did as well as could possibly be expected, considering the lighting, the unfamiliar camera, and the fact that he is three feet shorter than I am. (He took the bottom picture below). I finally resorted to the notorious self-portrait in the mirror technique:

This started out as the Tilted Duster from the Fall 2007 Interweave Knits, except instead of heavy wool, I used light angora. As I've blogged before, I truly, deeply hate this colorway. It was an accident of internet yarn-buying. But I never actually intended to wear this project--it just doesn't strike me as all that wearable a style--so I didn't care about the color, and the yarn itself was a dream to knit. [For those who may wonder why I would make something I didn't want to wear, I was just intrigued by the construction of this particular pattern. Since I also didn't want to wear the yarn, it seemed a match made in heaven.]

As I worked, though, I decided it was quite a shame that such a lovely yarn (fiber, not color) would never be worn, and I started thinking about ways to make this sweater more useful to me. First I lengthened the body a bit. Then I made wider sleeves with a slightly bell cuff. And then I changed the asymmetrical buttoned collar to a symmetrical fold-down collar. I have this little problem with asymmetry. I can't deal with it. I could never have worn the sweater with the original collar. When I sewed in the sleeves this afternoon and tried it on, I was very pleasantly surprised. Except for the color, it is a wonderful garment. It weighs practically nothing and is very warm and soft.

My final change to make this wearable will be to dye it black. I know some of you out there are gasping in horror, and I have to admit I have some small qualms, especially since I haven't tried dyeing a finished sweater before, but really--how hard could it be? Never mind. I don't want to know.