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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's a Barnum & Bailey World

A rainy cold weekend and a new sense of mission means my Paper Moon socks are finished -- including the re-knitting of the leg on the first sock. I really got into "the zone" on these lately -- and fitting with my modus operandi of letting projects languish and then suddenly knocking them out. A knitter's version of spring cleaning, perhaps. Which is also happening around here this spring break week. Believe me, it's needed.

You can't tell from the above picture, but I did re-knit the leg on the first sock. It would have just driven me nuts to know that these were "wrong," even if they looked fine they way they were. So I unraveled and unraveled and put the live stitches back on the dpns. Usually when I rip way back, I end up a row or two off, but I calculated it just right this time. And I was left with a giant wad of telephone cord yarn. (Sigh -- I just realized that "telephone cord" is starting to look like an anachronism.) In the past, I might just have wound it into a ball and started knitting, ignoring the fact that the kinks might make the knitting look wonky. ButI this time, I decided to be a bit more professional. Plus, I was worried that the kinks would make cables difficult to execute.

I wound the yarn around a box as I unravelled it. Using some scrap yarn, I tied off around the unravelled section in four places to keep it from tangling and I tied a stitch marker to the end so I could locate it later. Then I soaked the whole kinky mess for half an hour, leaving the rest of the sock on the edge of the basin. I squeezed it out, wrapped it in a towel and stepped on it, then draped it over a hanger with a slight weight and hung it in the shower to dry, again with the foot of the sock still attached. I had to get a bit creative, but it all worked. The next morning it was dry. Jeff did his husbandly duty of acting like a human swift while I wound it all up again, and then I was off to Saturday morning knitting.

Sunday evening, I had them finished. I washed and blocked the pair overnight and had my sock model pose for a picture on this glorious late winter day. They turned out beautifully. Jeff, who is not the biggest fan of wool socks, reports that these are quite comfy. That would probably be the silk. I'm glad I took the time to get these "right." And, because I'm a bit obsessive about these things, and because I'm hoping someone else out ther might be too, I can report that there are 392 cable twists in this pair of socks. And I'll have that number in my head each time I wear these. And I kind of like that.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Hind Leg

I thought that after knitting for nine years I had grasped the concept of following the directions in a knitting pattern. Apparently, I have not. Or maybe I have and I just need to pay more attention to the pictures provided. Or maybe I shouldn't knit while watching sci-fi movies over the Atlantic. Let me explain.

I was working on the second of the two Paper Moon socks yesterday and did a double-take after glancing at one of the pictures. It clearly showed that the cable which starts near the toe and is "unwound" to form the gusset, is supposed to be re-braided after the heel is finished and the leg begins. I went and grabbed my completed sock. Not only had I NOT done that, but the back of my sock didn't have the cabling and garter stitch motifs that the sock in the picture does. The back of my sock's leg was plain, except for the oddly placed purl gutters, which I had assumed where just there as placeholders for the cuff that is knit in the last few rounds.

How did this happen!? I started this sock in Germany, so I could claim travel fatigue or sleep deprivation. I can't believe that I worked on this off and on for over a month and never saw what I'd done Or rather, I can believe it, because the evidence is staring me in the face. Look at this photo of my pair in progress. The sock on the needles is the second sock, with the cable brought back together and the pattern going around the whole leg above the heel. The completed sock is sitting there like a reverse mullet hairstyle -- party in the front, business in the back. Boring!

When I reread the instructions for the leg, and then looked at the charts, I could see where I strayed. After a set up round where the purl gutters are established, the instructions say to work as established. There is no chart specifically for the back of the leg, although by the time you get there it's not too hard to see where you're going. Unless, of course, your eyes are glued to a tiny screen on the back of the seat in front of you, watching a hapless South African bureaucrat making a mess of intergalactic race relations.

I'm going to re knit the leg of that first sock.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

One Sock, Two Sock, Green Sock, Gray Sock

I was a little exhausted after the quick finish to the Girasole Throw. Pairing that with a nasty cold that left me apathetic about nearly anything creative, knitting and crocheting fell to the wayside in early February. I'd work a few stitches here and there, but my heart and hands weren't in it. I seem to have recovered -- I can breathe clearly now, the cold is gone. Today, I finished the first of a pair of socks that had been languishing.

This is one of the Paper Moon socks that I've been working on for a while. I cast on for them in late December while in Germany, and hadn't touched them since the flight home until this weekend. I had to stare back and forth from the sock to the pattern for 20 minutes before I could even grasp what I'd been doing with these -- what size I was making, where I'd left off. But I got a lot of work done on them yesterday, and this morning I finished the cuff and bound off. Better start the second right away, I think.

Yesterday I got to know and spend time with a knitter I'd never met -- always a fun way to spend a beautiful day. Kris is a friend of Janelle's who I know from her blog and a few social media connections. She happened to be here for a conference, so we set aside some time for a mini yarn crawl yesterday. We ended up hitting two shops, driving around a big part of Austin and grabbing some coffee. Knitting happened, of course. Afterwards we ran by the house, went with Jeff to take the dogs for a quick walk, and then all went out for some Texas barbecue. It was a great time, and I look forward to seeing Kris again. I swear we'll get back up to Pennsylvania one of these days. I promise!

While shopping, I couldn't resist this striking light gray Shibui Stacatto sock yarn, a merino/silk blend. The colorway is called Ash. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. Sock yarn is the only kind I buy without a plan for what I'll do with it. I think I'll just enjoy looking at it and thinking about the possibilities, for now.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A Drop of Golden Sun

I'm coming up for air after a flurry of knitting with no accompanying blogging. Not much to report with lace knitting in-the-round. Yarnover this, decrease that, join another skein, blah-blah-blah. I had a little excitement when I realized I needed a seventh skein to complete the project, coupled with joy that the yarn shop still had another one in the same dye lot. So I decided to wait to bore readers with the details until it was finished. And as of today, it is. I finished knitting it with my knitting group yesterday morning, wove in the ends when I got home, and washed and blocked it in the afternoon.

Since it's cotton, I washed it in the machine. I wanted to make sure it didn't fall apart. It didn't. But it was so heavy when wet that the washer wouldn't spin fast enough to get it past soaking and merely to damp -- it caused the whole thing to go way off balance. So I tossed it in the drier on low for 20 minutes to get it to the right dampness. All pointers I can pass on to those who will be caring for it.

The picot edging has 240 points on it. Ideally, I would have pinned out each one, but I don't have that many pins -- or that much patience. I made do, trying to make sure that each point was 30" from the center, making for a 60" diameter -- which just about fits on this old beach towel that I use for blocking big projects. The only place with floorspace big enough was in the living room, so I had Jeff help me move furniture around to create a Fortress of Blockitude, impervious to curious dogs. Frankly, I was a little disappointed that Pona and Kate didn't show much interest in my efforts. But if I hadn't done it...

I'm always fascinated by how magical lace is, being based on nothing but making holes and gathering them back together. And how it never reaches its full potential until blocked. Even in cotton, it smoothed out and shaped up noticeably after a good blocking. The sun pattern in the center spreading out from the clever cast-on is my favorite bit. But I also like the diagonal lace bars that shift directions as they move outward. I thought the knitted-on picot edging would drive me crazy with the amount of time I anticipated it would take. But it wasn't too bad. The six row repeat was quickly memorized and was easy to read as I went along. I can highly recommend this pattern. It's not particularly difficult. And, as with most Jared Flood patterns, it's very well written. I can't wait to see how this is received!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Girasole Start

I've had Jared Flood's Girasole pattern in my Ravelry queue for years, and Friday, I got some yarn to make it. It can be knit in any size, really, since it's circular. The pattern suggests a sock weight yarn for a shawl, or worsted for a blanket. I'm using more of a sport weight, so let's say this will be a throw.

It's going to be a gift, so I'll be a little cagey about my planning but I will say I did have a bit of trouble with the color. I wanted to make something bright, but the color options at hand were either neon or pastel -- not quite right for this project. Then I saw this Cascade Ultra Pima cotton yarn in a shiny antique gold color -- washed out to a camely-beige here by my color-distorting phone camera. But the actual color is vert fitting to me, as the center of the pattern looks like the sun. The label, however, says Mushroom. Hmm. No wonder it spoke to me.

I cast on right away Friday, and immediately it started with a bit of a challenge - a new (to me) cast-on technique: the circular cast-on. Two sites are suggested in the pattern to get details. I found that the option using a crochet hook worked best for me. It's pretty cool, and not that complicated.

In true lace-from-the-center-out fashion, I've made great progress this weekend, having worked my way through the first three charts and one of the six balls of yarn I estimate I'll need. But now things will slow down as the circumference increases. No worries yet. I still have time. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the novelty and at the same time marveling at the number of projects I have going at once. For me, this borders on spinning out of control.