Sunday, September 30, 2012

Owls, Afterthoughts, Stripes and Other Concerns

I finished the most adorable sweater this week. I haven't blocked it yet or finished with the buttons and adornment (we'll call this 99% finished) but I cannot resist showing you now. This sweater will be Christmas gift and I could not be more pleased in how it turned out. Yeah me! I feel like my knitting mojo might be back.

Owlet sweater, size 2 years

The Owlet sweater was so easy to knit and finished so well. It was knit with fairly big needles too so it seemed to knit up quickly. I really like how the simple cable repeats really look like little owls. The pattern calls for two buttons to be added to each owl, total 32 buttons. But I think that is going to be too much. I have been searching around on Ravelry for ideas on how other knitter have finished the sweater. There are lots of choices- people are so creative. I know how I want to finish it I just need to purchase a few minor notions first. Don't worry I will post the final finished project.

I bought this pattern in adult sizes too and keep wondering if I could pull off a sweater with a parliament of owls on the yoke. I think the adult version is a more fitted sweater too. I'll  have to give this some more thought.

I have finished the body of one of Olivia's birthday socks. Her birthday is next weekend and it is unlikely that I can get them both finished that quickly but I'll try. I am trying something different with her socks. I am making hers with an afterthought heel. I have never tried that before but have read good things about this heel making process. We'll see how this works out.

The blue line will become a heel...
if I ever find the courage to rip it out.

I did end up starting a project for myself. I tried to pick something easy that I could pick up and put down. I picked the Sonia's Shawl pattern.  However, I neglected to factor in how addictive stripes are to knit. "Just one more row" becomes "just one more stripe" and then "just one more repeat". And next thing I know it is midnight and I can barely keep my eyes open.
The navy yarn is Hand Maiden, Cashba Sock yarn (gorgeous!)
the colourful yarn is Kauni Wool 8/2 Effektgarn
 The Cashba yarn is so soft and lovely to knit with. The Kauni is a fingering weight wool with very long colour repeats in rainbow colours. I bought it special for a project just like this.  I may love the colours of the Kauni but it feels like I am knitting with gardening twine.  I had a striping shawl in mind but knew that I needed something very soft  to pair with the very coarse wool.

I am hoping that the finished product will still be soft and warm. I am also hoping that the Kauni soften with washing and wearing. I don't mind scratchy yarn against the skin so I am sure it will be fine. Aren't those famous last words? I guess all I can say right now is : to be continued...

So you can see what I have on the needle:
  • Olivia's birthday socks  (October) - 50% done
  • Stripy shawl for me. ~10% done
  • Queen of Diamonds Scarf- on-going- self made scarf pattern.

  • Not Yet on the needles but will be very very soon:
  • Finn's birthday sweater- I have swatched and have a most excellent plan. Finn approves. I will hopefully cast on this week.

  • Mystery Xmas gift #2- I ripped it without remorse.
  • Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Concerns of the Week

    I finished G's birthday socks and I am excited to report that they match. Each other. Really.  I  enjoyed knitting these and they seemed to go pretty quick. Nothing like little feet, eh?
    I am tending to keep a sock project on the needles right now so that I can take a small project with me where ever I go. I knit an entire heel flap and the heel turn in a meeting last week. It was a really long meeting!
    Happy Birthday G!
     I am also contemplating casting on a sweater for myself. I am trying to wait until after I have finished a few more of these small projects but I may not be able to wait.   Of course,  the sweater is not the one in my queue below but one of many that I have ready and tucked away. I am really enjoying knitting smaller projects right now- like baby sweaters. They make me feel like a super fast knitter.

    What's on my needles right now: 
    Above from top
     1)Baby Owlet Sweater,
    in Cascade 220 Heathers
    2) Olivia's socks. SweetGeorgia Yarns
    Tough Love Sock, in Spring Garden
    It doesn't look like it yet but I do have a plan.
    •  Baby sweater for sister-in-law's friend- Christmas 2012
    • Olivia's birthday socks  (October)
    • Mystery Xmas gift #2- I am still leaning towards ripping this project out. Still pending...
    • Queen of Diamonds Scarf- on-going- self made scarf pattern.

    My queue:
    • Finn's birthday sweater (December) - This idea is coming together. I just need to do a little more planning.
    • Baby sweater for friend due March 2013
    • Baby sweater for family 2013
    • Mystery Xmas gift #1- part 3?
    • Phoenix Rising Vergennes Sweater #2- this will be my second try at this sweater. I gave the first one to my sister. The first looked really good and I loved the yarn but I was unhappy with the final size. I have already swatched and I am ready to cast on!

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    The Concerns of the Week

    I have a Finished Object (FO) to announce: Mystery Xmas gift #1 parts 1 and 2. I am going to be coy with the pictures for Christmas gifts meant for family members. For now all I will say is: they match and they are so warm! I am pleased with the results.  I still have left over yarn from parts 1 + 2 so Mystery Xmas gift #1 may get a part 3.

    I'm probably what you think I am but maybe not.

    I had a brain wave this afternoon. I realized that I have knit many items for my daughters but nothing to date for my son. He has mentioned this disparity many times and has a long list of items he'd like me to make for him. He really likes knit socks so that had been my plan for his birthday. He still has small feet so it is a bonus for me- a quick(er) knit!  But I had a better idea...

    When he was an infant I had tried to make him a baby sweater with a smiley intarsia skull and cross bones on the front but the project was set aside and never completed for several reasons:
    1. I had never knit intarsia before and found this to be way more challenging that I had anticipated.
    2. I made a horrible yarn choice. I order, quite possibly, the scratchiest and bramble and debris filled raw yarn possible. I had knit half of the pieces and kept telling myself that it would soften with washing but I was not convinced. Even I was feeling twitchy and I LIKE scratchy yarn against my skin.
    3. He was growing faster than I could knit the thing. I tossed the 6 month size sweater pieces when he turned 4.
    I'm having thoughts about trying a different and larger version of the same sweater. This bears more thought...

    What's on my needles right now:
    • Sock #2 for Georgia started and about 25% complete 
    • Mystery Xmas gift #2- I am not sure how much I like this project and may frog it. However, I am giving myself more time to decide... the thought of doing another 48 repeats on this project currently makes me want to hide.
    • Queen of Diamonds Scarf- on-going- self made scarf pattern.
    My queue:
    • Olivia's birthday socks or shawl (October) - she's waffling on what she wants
    • Finn's birthday socks or sweater? (December)  - as above
    • Baby sweater for sister-in-law's friend- Christmas 2012
    • Mystery Xmas gift #1- part 3?
    • Phoenix Rising Vergennes Sweater #2- this will be my second try at this sweater. I gave the first one to my sister. The first looked really good and I loved the yarn but I was unhappy with the final size. I have already swatched and I am ready to cast on!
    • Baby sweater for friend due March 2013
    • Baby sweater for family 2013
    My queue keeps getting longer. I think I need to make some decisions and get a few other projects moving this week!

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    The Curse of the Red Sweaters- Part 1

    A Comedy of Errors, in 6 parts- The Napoli Sweater

    Every knitter has a story of a project that, for whatever reason, just did not end up as planned.  I have many. Almost a dozen.  Coincidentally about the same number of full sized adult sweaters I have made.  Each one of these garments started with inspiration and great intentions but ended with me collecting, yet another, badge for my "The Hard Way- Acquired Knitting Knowledge" sash.  We'll just call it my THWAKK sash. Well Internets, my first red sweater had THWAKK written all over it but I was too inexperienced to know that yet.

    The Project: The Napoli Sweater, by Berroco
    Napoli Sweater, by Berroco
    "Our swingy cardi is the perfect topper for your layered look."
    I loved this sweater!  The buttons up front were modest, yet playful. This was a sweater that would work equally well for both work and play. It was cute and stylish. Everything I could want in a sweater. I quickly bought the booklet and set to planning out the project.

    Reading the pattern made me realize that perhaps I may have been skill-jumping a little over optimistic on my current knitting ability. Sure, at this point in my knitting history I could honestly say that I had successfully* knit a couple of sweaters for kids and had completed  a few adult sweaters. They were... unique. But I finished and they were kinda cool and I really wanted this sweater for myself. So I was willing to try.

    I shake my head now, a scant 3 years later, at how absolutely wrong I went with this sweater.  But, for the sake of a story with a moral  I will continue to tell you about all the ways in which this project was going to go wrong.

    We'll start with the obvious: Sizing. I was concerned that the XL, the largest size of the pattern, was going to be too small. (I have a 44" bust.) Positive and negative ease was not a concept that I understood yet. The description of the sweater clearly reads "swingy" implying a loose fit but I was very worried about it being too tight. So my answer to this was that I would just modify the pattern to match my own measurements. I can do that.

    The next most obvious way to go wrong: Yarn Choice. The pattern called for Touché yarn, a cotton/rayon blend that looked, to me, to be a firm and dense fabric when complete. It looked heavy and I wanted a lighter sweater as I am almost always hot rather than cold. I went to my LYS and chose a bright red bamboo yarn.

    Things could have gone a lot better for me had I listened to the advice of the sales woman in my LYS.  I showed her my pattern and the yarn that I had chosen "because it was pretty and I liked the colour" off the shelves and asked for her advice. Choosing her words quite diplomatically she suggested that choosing a yarn in the same gauge would be an easier choice. She showed me that the pattern called for a yarn that was 5 stitches/inch and that the yarn I had chosen was 5.25 stitches/inch.  I think I may have even rolled my eyes at her.

    "That is practically the same" I say with misplaced confidence. She assures me it is, in fact, quite NOT the same and sits me down to show me that math of how this will affect my finished project.

    This brings me to part three: Math.  I will pause for an aside at this point. I am generally quite good at math. I am an engineer by profession. So it is fair to say that I do  a lot of math. So when the LYS sale woman was explaining sizing ratios and formulas for modifications I understood exactly what she meant... when I was in the store.

    So I off I head home and I am now modifying my sweater to be larger AND to deal with a different gauge yarn. I may have over complicated things for myself because I wrote this complicated modification formula on the top of my pattern and kept referring to it with every row when I was trying to figure out if I have the right number of stitches or not.

    My sister, who is always fond of teasing me was heard saying "You can't just knit a sweater can you?! You have to turn it into a complicated lesson on algebraic equations." And  it was at about that point I gave up my modification formula entirely and just started adding 10 stitches to each row. Fuck it! I'm eyeballing it from here.

    I am sure you can guess that my Gauge was not even close to the 5 or even 5.25st/inch that it was supposed to be. I will admit a very embarrassing truth here: I did not understand at all how to measure gauge or even why it might be important. I got that I needed to do math for stitches per inch for sizing but I had no idea that you could knit a yarn in anything other than the gauge on the ball wrapper. I thought the purpose of swatches was to see if you liked the drape and feel of the yarn. So I would knit my little 4" square- wave it around and say "yep, it sure is pretty" and do absolutely nothing with it!

    I also had no idea how to use something as simple as Stitch Markers. The back and the two fronts had many repeats of increases (or decreases) depending on the piece being knit. I bought these little circles knowing that they marked a spot and somehow managed to knit them into my sweater along the bottom edge of the back. I then proceeded to try to follow the rows of stitches up from the bottom to where I needed to do my increase or decrease. I would forget if I was to decrease before or after the marker. I was not look close enough and mis-trace the path and be over by one or three stitches to the left or right. Needless to say there were no tidy nor straight decrease lines up the back of my sweater!

    With these 5 very important and quite fundamental issues it should be no surprise to anyone that my sweater once lovingly sewn together was huge, oddly shaped and was horribly unflattering! The sleeves, which may have also been knit with different sized needles, were too wide and too long. The shoulders drooped and the underarms sagged. The bamboo yarn was stretching each time I held the sweater up and seemed to be growing exponentially! Thank goodness I knew nothing then about blocking.

    I knew I couldn't wear this sweater but I had worked so long and so hard on it that I wasn't prepared to throw it away. Yet. So I folded it up with the pattern and tucked it in my knitting bag for further contemplation another day.

    The next part isn't pretty... reader be warned.

    Part 6 of my story involves a stray kitten named Leonard that our family was trying to adopt. Leonard was a beautiful cat  and he needed a home but he had one huge flaw: he would not stop peeing on things.

    There is no gentle way to say this. This poor cat got accidentally trapped, for an hour or so, in my closet. The same closet where I had my knitting bag on the floor awaiting enlightenment on what to do with this absurd sweater. He peed on the bag. I don't know how it happened but the sweater was folded on the bottom of the bag. Under a knitting reference book and under the pattern. The pattern, bag and book had to be thrown away immediately but somehow the one item in the bag that would have been no worse off covered in cat urine was miraculously safe!


    I should lie and say that I threw the sweater away. But I didn't. This is going to sound terrible but I gave the sweater to my mother-in-law, who, I'd like to say, that I like very much! The sweater was washed and clean.  No pee ever had touched the thing.

    I am equally sure that my mother-in-law politely took the sweater off my hands as a kindness to me and immediately hid it at the back of her closet hoping to never see the awful thing again! At least I hope that is what she did. I shudder at the thought of her having gone out in public wearing that thing.

    The knitting bag was the last straw for Leonard and our family. He went to live on a farm shortly after I found the knitting bag. **

    I learned some very important lessons on this project. Such as:
    • Stitch markers should not have to be cut out of projects.
    • Swatches have a bigger purpose than just being an extra 4" square of yarn.
    • Gauge matters.
    and last, but not least:
    • watch that you don't accidentally trap the cat that pees on things in your closet with your knitting!  He would have bought the literal farm if he had peed in my stash!
    But, as we all know, it's a process, knitter.

    *I am formally defining "successfully knit" as... completed a sweater that may or may not resemble the original pattern but it is, indeed, without any doubt, still a sweater. ( e.g. the weird little raglan sweater whose raglan decreases only went to the left (on both arms and on both sides)- yeah, still a sweater even though it had the weirdest neckline of any sweater ever imagined.)

    ** This is NOT a euphemism for a more violent end to the cat who ruined my favourite knitting reference book!

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Genius, I told you!

    One perfect birthday sock!
    Well, I'm half way done my daughter's birthday socks. I'm feeling pretty good about these ones. So far sock#1 fits, doesn't have any weird striping (that isn't part of the pattern), has a normal heel flap and heel and doesn't have weirdly shaped toe decreases. Awesome!

    It will be tempting fate but I still have one more to go!

    What's on my needles right now:
    • Sock #2 for Georgia (to be started today)
    • Mystery Xmas gift #1: currently working on #2 of 2
    • Mystery Xmas gift #2- I am not sure how much I like this project and may frog it. However, I am giving myself more time to decide... the thought of doing another 48 repeats on this project currently makes me want to hide.
    • Queen of Diamonds Scarf- on-going- self made scarf pattern.
    My queue:
    • Phoenix Rising Vergennes Sweater #2- this will be my second try at this sweater. I gave the first one to my sister. The first looked really good and I loved the yarn but I was unhappy with the final size. I have already swatched and I am ready to cast on!
    • Olivia's birthday socks (October)
    • Finn's birthday socks (December)
    • Baby sweater for sister-in-law's friend- Christmas 2012
    • Baby sweater for friend due March 2013