Sunday, February 07, 2016

Sawyer Sweater

I finally finished it up today!

As of this morning, I had completed all the large pieces, sewn the shoulder seams together, and added the collar. All I had left to do was add the button bands, sew on the buttons, and seam everything together.

One of the things I'm not used to doing with patterns is knowing that when it says to make the button band a certain length, the pattern expects it to fit in a certain place and way -- and I should check that. I made the button band and the buttonhole band the requisite 8.25", but when I held them up, I could see they were an inch short. So I added an inch to the button band, and totally remade the buttonhole band, since the old one had holes in all the wrong places. This set me back a bit.

Once fixed, the afternoon was devoted to sewing. Because Shelter is a fragile yarn when pulled, it doesn't work well for sewing seams (ask me how I know this), so I found some old chocolate brown sport weight yarn that I'd used to make some gloves several year ago. Perhaps not an ideal match, but it doesn't show anywhere, so it did the job.

This pattern doesn't lend itself well to invisible seaming -- which, as the programmers say, is a feature rather than a bug. However, it's interesting to note that none of the model photographs in the pattern show any of the seams on the sides or on the sleeves. I can't remember who it was that pointed this aspect of pattern marketing out to me years ago. Flaws -- or at least details that some might find off-putting, don't make it into photos. I get it -- we all have a good side. And the seams don't bother me -- I only really noticed when I referred to the pattern to see what they were supposed to look like.

Another takeaway that I didn't catch onto in the pattern photographs was that one of the models had the cuffs rolled back. You may recall that I'd added an inch to the body and the sleeves to accommodate my anatomy. Didn't need it in the sleeves, it turns out. They go all the way to my knuckles -- which wouldn't be a bad thing on frosty mornings -- but not what I'd planned for. I did hold them up to my arms before sewing things together and saw that they looked a bit long, but I've been burned before and ended up with short sleeves. This time, it seemed I overcompensated. But I can live with turned back cuffs.

The buttons turned out great. They are a bit of a tight squeeze for the holes I made, but they work. They are also a little heavy, being metal, and tend to make the collar sag a bit when not in use. But I still like them. I'm not entirely sure I got the bands anchored at the bottom of the Henly opening quite right, but they're secure. If there's one aspect of sweater making that makes me feel like a fraud, it's sewing on buttons. I never quite feel like I know what I'm doing. I watch videos of HongKong and Saville Row tailors whip through it in a minute and think, "how hard can this be?" And 30 minutes and wads of snarled thread later, I know just how hard. Let's just say you won't be seeing photos of the back of the button band.

In the final assessment, though, I love it. It's the tiniest bit big, but that's okay. I was always thinking of this as an outer garment. The sleeves are a bit long, like I said. But looking at the photos Jeff took this afternoon, I have to admit it turned out pretty good, despite my tendency to sweat the small stuff. Thanks to my knitter pals who gave me the birthday gift of this yarn. I'm going to treasure this for quite a while. And now, I think I'll go walk the dogs in it before summer arrives tomorrow.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Walked the Line

I kept a close watch on this sleeve of mine
I kept my eyes wide open all the time
I saw the signs and now I'm gonna whine
I'm out of twine, I walked the line

My apologies to Johnny Cash, but this song has been going through my head all day.

I finished the first sleeve of my Sawyer Sweater late Friday after piddling away at it for a few weeks. When I finished, I saw that I only had a a little over two balls of yarn left for the second sleeve and the collar. I weighed the first sleeve -- 104 grams. I had 108 grams of yarn left, so clearly I would need to get more yarn for the collar, but at least I had enough for the second sleeve with a tiny bit to spare. Or so it seemed.

Saturday afternoon, I rode to my LYS and checked -- they were out of my dye lot, but I was okay with the collar being from a different lot, so I got two more skeins of the closest match. There was enough of a difference in the texture and the stitch patterns between the body and the collar that no one would notice on a galloping horse. While there, I got 5 buttons as called for in the instructions. I admired some wooden ones and even considered some rugged antler buttons, but decided on these metal ones with a yellowish patina that might bring out some of the yellow/gold flecks in the yarn.

This weekend I was able to get a LOT of of knitting done. I cast on for the second sleeve Friday night and all but have it done now. That's right. Almost done. Because I'm going to have to dig into one of the new dye lot skeins for the last 8 rows. Grrr. Maybe I need a better scale? I didn't think adding an extra inch to the body and sleeves would eat up that much more yarn, but now that I think about it, yeah, it would. Still, I kind of wish patterns would indicate a bit more exactly what "11 balls" means. Does it mean "10 balls and one more yard" or does it mean "Every freakin' last centimeter of 11 balls -- you know what -- better make it 12"?

So, I have a bit of ball winding to do, followed by a few more rows, some binding off, putting on a collar and some buttons, and some sewing together. And I'm rapidly feeling my enthusiasm ebbing away, despite my recent rapid progress, not least because of the unseasosonably warm weather. It really was "June in January," and not, as Bing sings, "because I'm in love," but because it was 85° Fahrenheit. In January. Beautiful, but I'm just not ready for it yet.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Match Game

Hit a milestone on my Sawyer Sweater today; I've completed the front and the back.

Once done, I placed the front on the back to see if all the decreases on both pieces matched up and mirrored each other. And they do. But doing this also revealed a problem I've never had before; the front is about an inch wider than the back. My stitch counts were all correct at all the check-in points in the pattern, so I must have had a mid-garment gauge issue. Was I more tense while knitting the back -- or more relaxed knitting the front? I don't think it's going to make a huge difference in the finished sweater, but I'm a bit disconcerted. I hope it doesn't become a trend. I'll see when I start the sleeves.

The top of the front involves dividing for the Henley and also decreasing for the armholes. It's one of those "at the same time" instructions that are so hard for me to follow. I had to draw a little diagram to keep track of where I was on each side. All this while juggling two balls of yarn and following new selvedge edge instructions for certain rows. Not sure I quite followed that last part correctly, but I don't think it will make a huge difference. Just about 20 or so rows, but so much to keep track of. The shoulder decreases in the two pieces match, so I must have gotten the gist at least. But my brain hurts.

I'm really liking the texture that this stitch pattern creates. It looks very different from close-up and from afar. I get a kick out of looking down the long diagonal rows of little bumps. Except when I see mistakes. In this pattern, and for me, this means ripping back rather than trying to fix it with a crochet hook. If you do see any breaks or other anomalies in the pattern detail pictured here, kindly keep it to yourself at this point, please.

I got to have lunch and go yarn shopping at Hill Country Weavers with my sister yesterday. I was all prepared to be a fount of knowledge about all things fibery, but she was on a mission. She new she wanted red and black variegated yarn for a scarf for her daughter, and zeroed in on several samples. She ended up with a super-soft alpaca/merino blend from Cascade called Color Duo. I think the one she chose is called Red Queen. Within hours she texted me a picture of several inches of neat and tidy rows. She's really taking off with knitting and I couldn't be prouder!


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Out With the Old

I'm back from our trip to Germany and Denmark. And I didn't knit a stitch the whole time. I just wasn't feeling it, for some reason. It wasn't until I was on the plane home that I hauled out my latest sweater to do a bit of work, promptly found a mistake a few rows back, tried to fix it with a crochet hook, made a mess of that, and then, somewhere over the tip of Greenland, stuffed it back in my bag. Sigh.

I did get to wear cozy handknit socks every day, keeping my toes warm in the frigid weather. But I never visited a yarn store; we just never were in the right place at the right time. However, I did see a few people knitting, and saw some nice knitwear on the streets everywhere we looked.

And also this gem -- a mural at a construction site near the Marble Church in Copenhagen. It featured tropes from pastoral art scenes with weird twists, such as UFOs over a group of milkmaids, a giant cat looking in a window at some feasting revelers, and this shepherd, riding a dog and knitting.

When I got home, and packed away some of the things I'd taken to keep warm, I realized that it was time to let go of some of my early handknit sweater projects. A few were just failures, like the weirdly wide-lapeled green cabled vest I thought I would love, but most were just too big. And although they represented a decade of learning new techniques and hours of work, I just didn't need them any more.

So, out with the old. I told each one goodbye in a Kondo-esque way, and sent them off to charity. I suppose I could have recycled some of the yarn, but I didn't. Clockwise from the upper left, they are: Men's Sweater by Staci Perry (too big, but I'll be making this again!), Herz & Baum Vest (weirdly shaped shoulders), Branching Aran Guernsey , Cobra Sweater, ZimmerZipper Cardigan, and the Whitfield Jacket (all too large) . All of them served their purposes, whether for learning or as something to keep me warm, but it was time for them to go. I'm only a little sad about it. I'm glad I still have records of them in Ravelry, though, so I can remember what I learned from them, and perhaps make newer, better versions later.

Almost have the front of the Sawyer Sweater finished. And this weekend, I have plans to go yarn shopping with my sister and I'm eally looking forward to it. So much newness to look forward to in this new year!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Warm Feelings

This week was for starting on a new sweater for myself and hanging out knitting with my sister.

The sweater pattern is Sawyer, featured in the BT Men Vol. 2 lookbook. I like all the sweater patterns in this collection, but this particular one jumped out at me. Thanks to a generous gift card for Hill Country Weavers that I received from dear friends upon becoming a gentleman of a certain age, I was able to get the suggested Brooklyn Tweed Shelter for this project. And, because I thought the particular shade used in the lookbook sample was pleasing to the eye and jibed with my palette, I went with that, too. So the sometimes agonizing worrying over choosing the right fiber and color was easily taken care of.

However, this stitch pattern, while easy to execute and memorize, is a bear if you drop a stitch. Every other stitch is knitted into the stitch below the needle on the right side in order to get the thick textured effect. But woe be unto you if you wander off pattern. It's really hard to fix. At least four times I've noticed a spot a few rows below where I've repeated a stitch and thrown off the whole diagonal effect. I can't seem to figure out how to correct these with a crochet hook without the diagonal pattern looking broken and weird afterwards. I just have to tink back and start over. But on the upside, I am getting a bit better about paying attention to what I'm doing.

Today, I did what I resolved a few posts back and got together with my sister to practice knitting. It was fun to sit and give her tips -- seeing her instinctively do the same things that I did as a beginner knitter. She's a natural continental knitter (yay!) and she knocked out several ridges of respectable garter stitch as we sat and chatted about family, school, work, our families, our dogs. Our Christmas gift to each other is to make time to get together and do more of what we did today. I'm excited to think about what she'll do with knitting. Oh, and our oldest nephew hung out with us too, just back from his first semester in college. He seemed to be settling in to the swing of things quite well.

Next week we'll be off to see my brother's family for Christmas in Germany, with a little side trip around the New Year. Hopefully, I'll have some knitterly news to post while we're there.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone! Here's hoping you have something handknit to keep you warm and fond memories of time spent with those you love.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

No Mean Feets

The past few weeks have left me little time for the needles, but I have managed to get a few things completed.

First of all, are these stranded slippers, called baffies in Scottish parlance. They're the first pattern in the Seven Skeins club I subscribed to recently. I was going to postpone making these until later in the new year, but I wanted to make something handknit for a friend of mine with a November birthday and I thought these would be just the thing. I hope you like them, Mary Peace!

They're pretty easy to make. Although you can see I had some tension issues, they're really not as different in size as they appear in this photo. They're made toe-up until the garter stitch striped heel. That's worked flat and then joined with a three-needle bind-off. Then it's finished off with an applied I-cord edging. A smart design, really. The white color is called Ptarmigan and the other is called Highland Coo after the shaggy cows of The Highlands. But everyone in Austin thinks it's UT Burnt Orange. I have to admit it's pretty close!

I've also finally gotten around to completing the first of my Domino socks using the ombré-spun Crazy Zauberball yarn I got in Maryland. The rainy, gloomy weather in north Texas this long holiday weekend has given me plenty of time to catch up with this project. It's been on the needles for months. I usually pick it up when something else gets too big or complicated to be easily portable, so I hadn't been working on it with any regularity. The black toes and afterthought heel are a bamboo/wool/silk combination called Panda Silk. This yarn would look better on 2mm needles instead of the 2.25mm that the rest of the sock is knit with, but it'll do. I turned once again to Janelle's excellent instructions for an afterthought heel. So helpful! One more sock to go...

I'm getting pulled in a lot of directions inspiration-wise. I've got my eye on a pullover pattern, I need to make a hat for a friend, I'm kicking around blanket ideas, and I've been wanting to try my hand at a houndstooth double-knit scarf. There's never not something to knit!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sis!

I finished the Miss Grace Shawl this week and gave it to my sister for her birthday. I think she likes it!

My sister is five years younger than me, so we never really overlapped at the same schools. But we now live in the same city, and while we talk and visit and follow each other on social media, we don't get together as often as we should. That can happen as siblings get older. But it doesn't have to.

My sister is a pretty amazing and inspiring person to me. She picked a kind and smart husband, has raised two responsible, bright kids, and has taught elementary music to hundreds of kids over the years. Our parents died at fairly young ages, which can be hard when you're just starting a family of your own. Susan has coped and carried on through it all. I'm amazed when I think of us all as little kids and how she and I and our brother have all created such different and interesting lives. I guess things have always been that way. Maybe you have to reach a certain age to appreciate this change? I wonder how I'll look back on all this from a vantage point even further along someday.

I was kind of stunned looking at the pictures I took of my beautiful sister modeling the shawl -- thinking about all me and my siblings have been through, and how very much she looks like our mother. Very fitting that this pattern is called Miss Grace -- that was our mother's name. And Susan wears both mantles well. She reminds me, so, so much of Mom.

And she had some news -- this just warms the cockles of my crafting heart -- she's been learning to knit! Her neighbor has been helping her learn, and we will soon be setting up a time to get together for some handwork and some reminiscing, like our mom and my aunts, like my grandmother and her friends. I can't wait to see what cool things she'll create. Happy birthday, Susan!

On the pattern itself, I can highly recommend it. As Staci said, it's just about the most fun you can have with garter stitch. I love how the instructions are as much an infographic as a pattern, and it's cool watching how the forms distort and cause the fabric to flow in different ways. Oh, and I sent in my picture from my last blog post and got in the top 10 of SKEINO's photo contest! I would follow Staci's instructions on the increases on the corners for the edging -- I didn't care for the method written in the pattern so much, although I did it. And be careful -- I had only a yard or two of the light color leftover at the end.