Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October Surprise!

My Machrihanish vest is finished! And it seems that it's going to stay together, despite my steeking mishap.

I've thought some more about it, and I do think that I made the crochet chains correctly and in the right locations, but made a poor choice in the yarn for the chains. The instructions called for sock yarn and the nearest at hand was some slightly slick superwash leftover from some previous project. I think its slipperiness along with my loose chaining was the problem. I would recommend using one of the less-used colors from your own vest, like the green in mine, so that the natural grabiness of the Shetland wool works in your favor. If you're nervous, you might consider making the neck hole steek seven stitches wide like the armhole steeks are constructed, rather than the called for five. A bit bulkier, perhaps, but worth it for the peace of mind? Think about it. The thread I used to sew up my disaster is just barely visible in the decrease columns next to the ribbing if you look at a larger version of the photo above. But seeing it while I'm wearing it requires a certain intimacy preserved for few.

The instructions called for steam blocking, but I usually opt for an old fashioned full immersion altar call dunking. My gauge often ends up on the snug side and I need the stretching power of a complete soaking. But as soon as I popped this in the sink, the water starting turning blue and I worried that it would dull the other colors. So I took it right out. Still, it got wet enough for serious shaping. With hindsight, I realize I should have followed those particular instructions. As it turned out, I didn't have to do too much stretching to get this the right size.

Most of the dimensions were right on. I had to stretch out an extra inch or so of ease from side to side. The length came out a half inch longer, but I have a longish torso, so that worked in my favor. The armholes, however, sit a little high on the garment and are the slightest bit snug. It may just seem that way because the shirt I was wearing under it is a bit big on me, but I would like just a bit more room. Some careful additional blocking might work for that, but I don't want to put any more stress on the cut openings than absolutely necessary.

I finished this Sunday evening, but wasn't able to take pictures until tonight. As it was, I had to race home on my bike to catch the last bit of usable sunlight. Having really pushed it on the way home, I was a hot, panting, sweaty mess when I came through the door. Jeff was so patient to put up with my "art direction" (read: persnickityness) and did a pretty good job with the short amount of time we had in the rapidly dwindling autumn light. It couldn't have been fun putting up with me sweating in our mosquito-filled backyard wearing a sweater-vest in 80-degree weather. I hope I was patient enough. I look at this picture of myself and wonder...

All in all, this was a great project. I really love the balance of colors, and it has a wonderful symmetry to it in the size I knit. The solid arm and neck edging pull it all together nicely. I can't get over how different it looks close up versus far away. And as I've mentioned before, the crayon-like primary colors created wonderful patterns that meld together beautifully. Thanks, Katie Davies, for designing such a beautiful garment! More pictures are available over at my Flickr site.

I have yarn left over, more than I predicted. Maybe enough to make a hat? Not one to wear with this particular vest. That would be too matchy-matchy even for me. But Tony pointed out this nice hat pattern called Shwook, one of the examples of which appears to be made out of leftover Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage yarn. I'm really liking it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Masculine Mis-Steek

(My apologies in advance to Betty Friedan)

Disaster! Doom! Gloom!

During the week I crocheted my steeks; the crochet chain can be seen in gray sock yarn in the photo to the left. Yesterday I cut them without much fanfare, but with perhaps a touch of hubris, as we will see. After all, I'd done this before.

I spent the morning picking up stitches for the neck band, and then settled down for some simple 1x1 ribbing. But as I worked, I noticed the crochet chain was hanging loosely, rather than being snug up against my work. Closer inspection revealed that many of my yarn ends had worked their way out of the crochet chain!

This means I put the chain into the wrong parts of the stitches, cut the wrong threads, created the chain too loosely, or some unholy combination of the three. What to do? All I could get out of Jeff was sympathy and the sound advice to talk to someone who could help. I talked to Staci, and she talked me off the ledge. After discussing the problem with her and thinking through some options, I decided to hand sew the decrease row of stitches to the picked up stitches to minimize movement. When all is in place, I'll do some things to try and felt the backsides to further stabilize the cut edge.

I think disaster has been averted, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, I'll keep working carefully and try to keep the nausea at bay. I'm off to a conference tomorrow and I think I'll take a sock and put Machrihanish in time-out until I get back. Sigh -- it would have even wonderful to be able to wear it in Denver.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Machrihanish Bound

I had a bit of time to devote to knitting this weekend, and I've made some progress to share with you on the Machrihanish vest.

Major patterning is done! The reason this looks like a sack right now is that the arm hole and neck steeks have yet to be cut. Once the neck steek is cut, it will expand to be more vest-shaped. I'm actually looking forward to the cutting part. It used to be intimidating. It's till a sobering thought -- cutting knit stitches -- but no longer panic-inducing. As mentioned earlier, I will be reinforcing the cut edge with crocheted chains as the designer, Kate Davies shows on her web site.

I'm a little concerned about fit. It's measuring a bit smaller than my gauge led me to believe. But, it's also hard to judge while the garment is still bound up with the steeks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that cutting and a good soaking will help with that.

I was hoping I could get this finished before a planned trip to Denver next,week, but I don't think I'll be quite finished by then. I might be able to get the steeks cut, but I don't think I'll have the neck and arm ribbing done. And before I can do any of that, I need to make sure the ends are woven in around the first steek. I had temporary knots tied in the ends to maintain tension while working, but now I need to undo all of those and work the ends back in. Tedious, but necessary. Can't wait for this to be finished!

 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Machrihanish Progress

Just a short and long overdue post about my progress on the Machrihanish vest...

I've not been working on it steadily. Beginning-of-the-semester busy-ness, catching up with relatives and trying to get ahead on yard work has kept me away from the needles, but I'm getting to it when I can. I've been through three 42-row repeats of the pattern so far and am about a dozen rows into the armhole steeks. The decreases at this point are rapidly drawing in the circumference, so I was able to speed up a bit this weekend. It will only get smaller and smaller as I head toward the shoulders -- quite the opposite of center-out lace or top-down sweater construction.

I love making and looking at steeks. I've made both the checkerboard and striped variations. I think I like the stripes better. Easier to see when cutting. These are narrower than others I've done -- only seven columns instead of a safer nine or eleven. I think I might actually crochet these to secure them before cutting. I didn't on my last vest and it's sticky Shetland wool has held up just fine, but I'm worried that seven is too narrow a margin -- literally.

My 32" circular needle is getting a little too hard to work with, so I picked up a 16" 2.75mm needle this afternoon. I'll need it later for the neck and armhole edging, and in a few rows I'll need to start transferring stitches too it as the circumference narrows even further. It will be pretty crowded at first, but that won't last long.

I should have this finished by the time the cooler weather gets here. If it ever does.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Treasure Post

I received a letter in the mail his summer, which, while delivered in July, only now just made its way to me. It's wonderful beyond words and I just have to share.

I signed a short contract last academic year, and was away from work for most of July through this week. Getting back to the library after a break always involves a flurry of returning calls and going through email. It was halfway through Monday before I tackled the physical mail, and amongst the junk mail and magazines, I found a letter. A proper letter, with a stamp on it. The stamp featured a profile of Her Majesty and was postmarked Glasgow. What could it be?

An envelope of awesomeness, that's what! A Glaswegian Ravelry friend, Alison, had attended the Edinburgh Fashion Festival in July and got to meet Arne & Carlos, the Norwegian designers of the 55 Christmas Balls which I made two years ago. Alison thoughtfully printed out a photo of my completed set beforehand, and asked them to autograph it for me:

I can't tell you how wonderful it was to receive this. Alison sent it to me with a warm handwritten note. I'll treasure both, I assure you. And she was very resourceful in finding an address to mail it to. The librarian in me appreciates such skills. That someone I've never met would think of me and go out of her way to do this for me was truly touching. I will be sending her a proper thank you later, you can be sure of that.

If you want to see her great knitting (and yes, you do), Ravelers can find her under the handle banjocool on Ravelry. I especially like the small-gauge knitting she's done for Barbie and her Action Man!

Thank you so much, Alison. You really touched my heart with this gift.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making Rounds

On my list of things that needed doing during the summer was a trip to visit my Aunt June. She's always had interesting family stories to share and we've always got along well. I think our status as the eldest children in our familes made us simpatico, and her stint as the librarian in her home town was influential in my career choice. Plus, she's an important link to the family needlework and seweing heritage on my mom's side.

Jeff, my sister and our niece headed down yesterday to spend the day. She made us a yummy lunch (with the help of her grandkids), and I got to give her the Squared Away Throw I finished a few months back. As I worked on it, I thought the colors were so Aunt June, and this picture confirms it! It's almost as if she picked this outfit for the occasion. She was really happy to receive it, which, of course, made this knitter's day.

She showed us some quilts while we were there, including a baby quilt with little sheep and a t-shirt quilt she was making for her grandson, Thomas. She also is repairing a fan-patterned quilt that my grandmother made just before June was born. She would have been twenty-two years old. I love all the fabric prints, which probably came from old sugar and flour sacks. Some are really quite cool, although a few panels have disintegrated over the years. It's just so moving to touch these things and make these connections with my past. I'm glad Aunt June is taking care of it so well. She is planning on coming to the biannual quilt show here in Austin in a month or so. It's become a bit of a tradition, and I'm looking forward to it.

Speaking of rounds, I've completed about 60 rounds of the Machrihanish Vest, which is about one-and-a-half chart repeats. I think I like the darker band better than the lighter one, but they're both nice. Whenever I put this in strong light to take a photograph, it makes the colors come off a bit more primary-ish than I think they are in normal light. Also, I like the way this looks from a distance more so than I do close up. I've completed two balls of the Mussel Blue, and haven't finished the first of any of the others. It's looking like I'll have plenty. I still have a ways to go before thinking about steeking and decreases, so for now I'll continue making the rounds.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Scotch Swatch Not Botched

I began my Machrihanish Vest this week. Stranded knitting has its unique challenges and benefits and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy projects like this. Although I have some Scottish background, none of my ancestors came from the Shetlands as far as I know, much less the Orkneys or Fair Isle. But I do so enjoy the rhythm of this style of two-handed knitting with the myriad patterns that can be created. Maybe I'll find a link some day.

I started the swatch right away -- shown here. Did I mention challenges? Since this project is knitted in the round, I needed to make my pattern swatch in the round, too. I had to do this on a very long needle using a magic loop. I worried that the loop gap might cause gauge issues, but it wasn't that bad. You might see a little distortion running through the center of the leftmost "X" motif where the gap was. I steeked across the other gap and later cut it. I didn't reinforce it at all. Love the grabiness of Shetland wool! After steaming, cutting, pinning and drying, the swatch was at 37.5 stitches over 4", just over the called for 36. The lightest of tugs and I was just fine. Oh -- and US knitters take note -- this pattern calls for a 2.75mm US2 needle. Many needles marketed as US2 circulars are actually 3mm. Check the millimeter size! I had to get a new one. It's from Knitter's Pride, and I quite like it, though the dark cord can make the blue stitches hard to see.

The swatching directions call for knitting half the motif on one size needle and half on another, because there is an option for making the lower section narrower. I'm more tube-shaped than v-shaped, so I'm not bothering with the shaping. There's also an option for making the ribbing twice as long and then doubling it under for extra strength. This appealed to me at first, and I bought extra yarn for it, but ultimately decided it would be too bulky for Texas.

I started on the vest proper a few days back and I'm to the point that the swatch left off. I've only dropped stitches a few times, but found them and fixed them easily enough. I'm really liking watching this pattern grow. So far, so good. As is often the case, successful projects start with good planning. And this patterns' detailed instructions for swatching were greatly appreciated.