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 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.


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


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 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.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

FO: Sahara Revisited

Sahara was a peculiar project for me. I loved knitting it. The pattern was wonderful and the yarn, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted, is my all-time favorite. But the end result did not please me at all. The variegated yarn did what variegated yarns so often do and looked completely different in the finished project than in the skein. I also tried to skimp on the yarn (because, folks, this is not cheap yarn), and ran out while the sleeves were still quite a bit shorter than I wanted. All in all, I ended up with a fairly pricey sweater that I knew I would never wear. Here is the "Before":

After the rather painful crash and burn that is the Round Yoke Jacket, I needed a win. I found someone on Ravelry who had a skein of the same yarn I used for Sahara and talked her into selling it to me (by the simple expedient of offering money). When it arrived, I divided it into two equal balls. Then I took out the bind off on the short sleeves of my Sahara, put the live stitches back on the needles (oh, how I love top-down knits!), and worked until the sleeves were the length I wanted. (Dividing the skein up front allowed me to work each sleeve to length without having to worry about running out of yarn for the other sleeve.)

The colors did not match. Not even close. The new skein was much darker. And it pooled something fierce. But I wasn't worried about any of that, because I had already decided the only thing that would save this sweater for me was overdyeing it. I did this once before, with a beautiful angora that was originally dyed an inexplicably unfortunate combination of orange and purple. In that case, I tried to dye it black, but it turned out more of a heathered sable color. Unexpected, but very pretty.

This time, I decided to try for a warm brown. Because the original colors were red, green, orange, and yellow, I was kind of limited in my color choices. I figured red would turn to brown when it hit green, green would turn to brown when it hit red, and orange wouldn't work with much of anything. So brown seemed reasonable. When I got to the grocery store (yes, I used RIT dye from the grocery--I was too impatient to order real dye), I saw a bottle of scarlet dye next to the brown and thought, hmmm, a reddish brown would be nice, so I grabbed a bottle of that, too.

I mixed up the dye bath using the very scientific approach of adding about half of the brown dye and a couple glugs of the red dye to a half a large pot of water. [Please note, though: I seriously underestimated the dominance of the red dye. My dye turned out much more red than I intended, even after I added the rest of the bottle of brown to the dye bath. Just for your information, should you choose this approach.] I soaked the sweater in warm water, brought the dye bath to about the same temperature, then transferred the sweater to the dye bath and simmered it for about an hour, stirring (gently) every few minutes. This yarn is superwash wool, so felting wasn't too much of an issue, but I used the same method when I overdyed my angora sweater, and it didn't felt either. I think the key is not changing temperatures dramatically and not agitating the sweater any more than you can avoid.

Once the dyeing was done, I let the dye bath cool a bit, then transferred the sweater into a dish pan and began rinsing it, beginning with hot water and slowly reducing the temperature with each rinse. It took a LOT of rinsing. More than a lot. [Note: Wear gloves. Repeat: WEAR GLOVES.] The drawback to using RIT dye is that it is a multi-purpose dye, meaning it actually contains two different types of dye to address different types of fabric. Only one of the dyes adheres to wool, so the other one just sits on the surface of the fabric and must be rinsed out. I also used far more dye than I needed to, just to be sure it would fully cover the original colors.

Several hours of soaking and rinsing later, I put the sweater in a gentle spin cycle in the washer, and then tumbled it in the dryer until it was damp. I find that superwash wool stretches like mad when you wash it, and a short trip through the dryer really helps to set it right. I laid it flat to finish drying, and that was it! Here is the finished Sahara Revisited:

(Yes, that's a little excess dye that still needs rinsing out on the sleeve.)

I am thrilled with the results. This one went from a sweater I would never have worn to one that I will use often. In fact, I think I am going to cast on for another Sahara next!

Friday, October 3, 2008

FO: Sligo

At long last...Sligo:

You may remember when I started this one, in a frenzy of enthusiasm, way back in the spring. I fell in love with the pattern at first sight, and I had the perfect yarn, hand-dyed for me by the amazing stitchjones, just waiting for the right project. But alas, the path of true love did not run smoothly (is this a theme, or what?).

I struggled with the stitch pattern, which incorporates complex cable stitches along with (shudder) lace. I struggled with gauge issues that caused me to rip and reknit the back three times. I struggled with my ability to follow the pattern, causing me to rip out half the front. I struggled with the yarn, when I ran out and had to have Sharon attempt to match the earlier dye lot, a process that eventually required the sending of swatches up and down the West Coast to achieve something that would work. And then, in the final crowning inglorious moment, I realized I had sewn shut the side slits, and in attempting to reopen the seam, I cut the wrong thread and the lace hard-won lace began rapidly unraveling across the front. This last crushing blow was it for me. I stuffed the entire sweater, completed but for the edging on the side slits, behind the sofa. And there is has remained.

A few days ago, as I was working on a remake of another project that displeases me, I abruptly decided it was time to finish Sligo. Before I could reconsider, I pulled it out and set to work. In less than an hour, I had the side seams open, the lace repaired (or at least confined), and the side slit edging picked up and knitted. I wove in the last few ends and put the whole thing in a warm bath to soak. A gentle blocking, an overnight drying, and it is done. I can't believe I waited so long to address the problem, and how little trouble it was to fix. I'm going to look on this as a much-needed reminder that it is better to face one's demons than to hide them away behind the sofa.

The damage to the lace and the subseqent repair is barely visible. See?

If you look carefully, you can see on the lower left edge that the left side of the lace repeat is incomplete. This is the part that I mistakenly cut, and the best repair I could manage was to tie off and weave in the cut ends and then pick up and knit the edging. I figure no one will ever see it, so I can live with it.

The details:

Pattern: Medallion Pullover (Ravelry link) by Gayle Bunn from the Spring/Summer 2008 Vogue Knitting
Yarn: Stitchjones hand-dyed superwash worsted in the colorway "Sligo" (about 1500 yards)
Needles: Size 6 and 5 KnitPicks Options circulars
Mods: I made mine a couple of inches longer than the original, both in the body and the sleeves.
Thoughts: I can't say I really enjoyed knitting this one. The various problems I had with it made it more a matter of determination than pleasure. But I do like the design, and I do think I will wear it. Mostly, I'm just glad to have this albatross off my neck!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name

Thank you all for the birthday wishes. They really brightened my day! It's not every day a gal turns 29...uh...30...or did we agree on 35?

And these were also a highlight of the day! Are these not the coolest flowers ever? One of the guests at my little party last night was fellow knitblogger Janet of On The House. She made this bouquet of felted roses just for me!

I love how rich they look, and the soft texture of the felting.

I think the variegated ones are my favorites.

If you want to make some yourself, Janet graciously sent me the link to the pattern on the Berroco website.

I didn't have time for any knitting last night, but I did manage to finish the cast on for Deep Purple (aka Silver Belle) today. This was no mean feat. There are 428 stitches on that needle. I know. I counted them. Many times.

The pattern calls for a 24" circular. I defy anyone to get 428 aran weight stitches on a 24" circular and retain any measure of sanity. I used a 32" and those babies are on there tighter than a tick in a dog's ear. There are 50 stitches crammed between each set of white markers. I'll be moving up to a 40" on the next row.

I really wanted to show you at least one of my recent rescued projects, but it was ninety-freakin'-seven degrees here today and a woolly FOtoshoot was absolutely out of the question. Tomorrow is supposed to be significantly cooler. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. For those of you in places where fall has fallen, could you please send a little cool air this way?