Monday, July 21, 2014

The Gist of the Twist

I've been on a roll with knocking out the projects these past few weeks. Today, I finished the Boyfriend Socks that I started back in May.

This pattern has been available online for free for years, but I just now got around to trying it. I used some Cascade Heritage Silk in the color Limestone that I bought when Janelle's friend (and now mine) Kris was in Austin for a conference and we spent a lovely Saturday driving around to yarn shops, knitting, and stuffing ourselves with barbecue. Good times! I started these socks shortly afterwards, but they too fell victim to my late spring/early summer knitting doldrums. But it was easy enough to pick up where I left off. I'd forgotten how luxuriously smooth this yarn is to work with. It can be a splitty with my sharp dpns, but totally worth it.

The construction is rather straightforward in this pattern. They're made toe-up using the magic cast-on. I followed the instructions for increasing on the adjoining edge stitches, but I wish now that I'd offset them by one stitch. And I'm not all that great with wrapped short row heel construction, but at least they look uniform.

I really do like the cables and how they drift back and forth across the ribbing in little bunches of three. Once I figured out how to count rows to find my place it was easily memorized. And the generous yardage on this yarn meant I could take these a little further up the calf before the final 1x1 ribbing and the sewn bind-off.

Those are Jeff's feet modeling in the top photo. He'd rather model than put up with my somewhat demanding photo direction. But he did mention how silky smooth these were -- this from a man who thinks most handknit garments are "too scratchy." Maybe someday I'll make a pair for him, although I suppose I'd have to change the name to Husband Socks.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Lunatic Fringe

Started back in November, and all but abandoned for the last several months, the Squared Away Throw is now complete. I powered through the final third this past week and spent a big part of yesterday cutting and knotting fringe.

I just completely lost interest in this at some point, and set it aside with hopes that it would call to me again. It never did. Earlier this week, the blanket and I had an "it's not you, it's me" conversation and decided to end things amicably. Without going into the sordid details, I can report that we will be living apart and that we wish each other the best.

Part of our tension stemmed from, well, tension. I could never get it right, with the result that this throw is 50" x 32" rather than the pattern's "60 x 39". Not such a big thing for something that doesn't have to fit a body part, but still quite annoying and yet another reminder of the importance of mindful swatching for achieving the proper gauge.

I'm also not convinced I got the start-of-row triangles correct. They're sloped and wonky-looking. I noticed that this edge doesn't appear in any of the pattern photos (including mine!) -- so maybe it's intentional. Or, more likely, it just can't be helped because of the way the increases and decreases work when fitting triangles and squares together.

This project combined two things I'm not all that familiar with: crochet and entrelac construction. Trying to figure out where stitches went (or, indeed, what constituted a "stitch") was tricky at first. And learning to think on the bias was weird, too. Oh, and a third thing: Tunisian stitch. Crocheters always tell me how much faster crocheting is than knitting. But my nights in Tunisia showed me that this technique is like crocheting in slow motion.

My friend Staci has an excellent tutorial on the basics of Tunisian crochet if you want to learn more. I referred to it more than once.


Don't get me wrong -- this is a really cool technique and I'm glad I've added it to my bag of tricks, but I don't know that I'll be doing it again anytime soon. I think this turned out well enough, and I'm glad it's done. Time to move on to other things, which, when the yarn arrives, will be this.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

In Fine Knit

A burst of speed right at the end and I've finally completed the Fine-Knit Cardigan, started in April. I got to spend much of the holiday weekend working on piecing it together and weaving in ends. Oh, the weaving in of ends. How can there be so many when using just one color and type of yarn?

I've got quite a track record for finishing sweaters in the height of summer. I'm a patient man, and don't mind having to wait to wear them -- better than finishing one just as spring begins -- but trying to get photos taken this time of year is a chore. The heat and the mosquitoes meant we were out in the back yard for maybe 10 minutes. Jeff, as usual, patiently put up with all my suggestions.

I think this sweater is going to serve its intended purpose well. Not only does it satisfy the unwritten official librarian work outfit regulations, it will be a good foil for my library's enthusiastic air conditioning. This will replace the Keruoac Sweater I've been using for the last three years. That garment is far too big for me these days and will get donated. I will say, though, that my new sweater is heavier. Being a 50/50 wool/cotton blend, it's a bit cooler, but all that cotton adds a lot more weight. Weight-wise, it reminds me of all those fisherman's rib cotton sweaters we used to wear in the 80s. But it will be a good option for wandering the frosty stacks.

If you've been following, you'll know that this pattern presented some challenges. I'd chosen this yarn because, well, I always wanted to use Rowan Wool Cotton, and because a fellow Raveler had used it for this pattern. However, I can't imagine she got anywhere near gauge. I had to modify nearly every cast-on, increase, and decrease number for the medium size using a ratio method. And that after going down two needle sizes. The whole thing had me on edge most of the time, but, as usual, math didn't lie. I'm just glad I listened early! The only area I didn't modify was the armholes and the corresponding sleeve caps. The numbers were small enough that I didn't think it would matter. The result was upper arms and shoulders that might be just a tad large proportionally. I'm hoping those who haven't read this will just assume I have naturally broad shoulders and huge biceps. Math doesn't lie -- but knitting can. I'll post modification details soon in the project notes.

After I finished major operations yesterday, I ran over to Stitch Lab to look for buttons. I'd heard from friends that they had inherited the pile of antique shell buttons that Silk Road used to have. I have fond memories of digging through those with Snowden several years back while looking for buttons for my Whitfield Jacket. The pile has since diminished greatly, but I was able to find 7 buttons that matched. Not the fanciest in the bowl, but the right size and beautiful in their no-two-exactly-alike simplicity.

So, now on to other projects. I have some socks to finish up, and a crocheted throw that needs some attention.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Since last checking in, I've been working on my Fine Knit Sweater. More off than on, but I had a productive spate of stitching-making this weekend. The right panel was a month-long project. In contrast, I cast on for the front left panel Friday night and finished it less than 48 hours later. I'd set a goal of getting this finished before the fall semester starts up in August. Doesn't look like that will be a problem from this vantage point.

My ratio calculation system continues to work. I had a moment of panic last week when I thought the sloped decrease across the chest wasn't steep enough, but it's okay. When I pinned all the pieces to check my progress this afternoon, everything matched up. Whew.

As I've worked on this over the weekend, I've been watching the opening World Cup matches. I'm not the biggest sports fan, but I do enjoy international competitions like this and the Olympic Games. Seeing people at the top of their sport doing their best (or not), is always satisfying, even if I don't always know what's going on. But I figure if were going to go see our nephew play in the World Cup some day, I should bone up on how this sport works. It makes for good background TV while working.

In the meantime, I suppose I should also work on my crochet skills so I can support my team with an attention-grabbing headdress, like the one I saw a guy sporting in a crowd of Ecuador supporters. How can anyone in Brazil stand to have anything like that on...ever?




Saturday, May 31, 2014


This is the longest I've gone without a post since I started this blog. I find that a bit frightening. My knitting has slowed down a bit, that's true. I'm just worried that I don't have much to say about it lately. I suppose my mind has been focused elsewhere, with a work-related project that consumed my creativity and imagination for a while. And other extra-fiberly activities. Perhaps I did let that take over too much. I've picked up the needles again lately, though. Sure feels nice.

Work continues on the Fine-Knit Cardigan. I've finished the back and managed to make some progress on the right front panel. I'm still using a ratio calculator to make necessary gauge adjustments to the pattern. It's like taking a standardized test. 140 is to 120 as 9 is to _____. The answer is 7.7 -- or, rather, 7, since that section needs to be odd-numbered. Kind of fun, but also a bit nerve-wracking. I've been taking good notes, though, to ensure that if it ends up misshapen, at least it will be symmetrically misshapen.

And I started a pair of socks to have something to knit for the flight to a recent conference. This is the beginnings of a pair of Boyfriend Socks by Alice Bell. I'm using some Cascade Heritage Silk sock yarn in a nice neutral color that's really showing the stitches off well. I'm almost to the first heel on these toe-up socks. They're not nearly as complicated as they look since the cabling only happens every 6 rows.

I'll try to be better about making progress and posting about it. Hope all of you are hitting your knitting stride during this lovely spring, or autumn, depending on your habitational hemisphere.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Compound Interest

I've been toiling away on a new sweater project off and on for the past few weeks, and was hoping to share some progress with this post, but a quick reassessment last night showed that I had foolishly ignored the laws of gauge once again.

I'm making the Fine-Knit Cardigan by Erika Knight from Men's Knits: 20 New Classics. I got some Rowan Wool Cotton in a lovely dark green called Deepest Olive. I needed something to replace my gray work cardigan since it no longer fits. And even in a Texas summer, an overly air conditioned library can be a chilly place to work. I thought I might unravel the old one and make a smaller size, but I wanted something new and different.

One of the reasons I picked this yarn was for the fiber content -- I didn't want all wool or all cotton -- and because someone on Ravelry had knit this pattern with this yarn and it looked lovely. But after knitting it, I can't believe she got gauge with the needles listed. I went down two sizes and still I was too large. I got started any way, thinking I was close. But as I should know by now, close doesn't cut it with gauge. While compound interest is awesome when it comes to long-term savings, it's hell on knitting. I went down two sizes further than I would normally make, and two sizes down in needles, and it still appears I'm going to end up with a sweater with a 50" circumference!

But I love this yarn and this simple pattern. I've decided to start over and calculate the cast-ons based on ratios from what I got in my first attempt. For instance, if I originally cast on 140 stitches for the back and it ended up 25" wide, to get a 21.5" back, I should cast on 120. I think if I take good notes and try to be careful about the proportions, I should be in good shape. Let's hope the sweater will be, too. I'm kind of nervous about this approach, but here goes.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Knitting on the Road

We visited our friends Tom & Shelly in Houston this weekend to see the penultimate performance of a play Tom directed. Ruined, by Lynn Nottage at Obsidian Art Space was quite intense and had some amazing acting. So glad we took the time to come down and see it.

While having breakfast the next day, Tom reminded me that we had been talking about me knitting him a sweater. We haven't settled on a pattern yet, but I thought a trip to the yarn store might help generate some ideas. If we found a yarn he liked, it might help us settle on a pattern. And luckily for us, there was a yarn store down the street.

I'd been wanting to visit Knitting in the Loop for a while, but we just don't seem to get to Houston as much as we used to. It's housed in an old 1920s-era bungalow that was moved to this site in the 1980s. It's very open and light with plenty of windows looking out into the southeast Texas spring sunshine. They had a lot of Rowan, Cascade and Debbie Bliss yarns, among others. It wasn't cluttered-seeming like some yarn shops can be. And the place was hopping with people knitting on a Saturday morning. Here, Jeff and Tom relax while I get to business.

We still haven't settled on a yard or a pattern, but we might be getting closer. While Tom mulled things over, I snuck over to look at the sock yarn. I really liked the Painted Desert sock yarn they had, which I had never seen, but the fact that it was just superwash wool with no nylon made me a little leery of it's ability to withstand wear and tear. If anyone has any experience with this yarn, I'd be interested to hear about it. In the meantime, I bought some more Cascade Heritage Silk in a creamy beige color. It's so nice to work with. And it looks lovely among the loropetalum in Tom & Shelly's garden. Spring has definitely arrived in this part of the world.