Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Checks? Check.

The British Checks Sweater is finished! Doesn't it look great on Jeff? Silas looks a little wistful, already missing this pile of wool that's been temptingly sitting on various pieces of furniture around the house, just begging to be slept on. Sorry -- those days are over, mister.

The blocking did wonders, as I hoped it would. Say it together -- "Always believe in the magic of blocking." The stitches smoothed out, the body of the sweater fits great, and the sleeves are just the right length. And, the hem, which had been curling up from the very beginning, is lying there, tame as can be.

I can still see the color dominance shift in the last few inches of stranded knitting, just before it joins the ginger color. I think switching the hands that I held the colors in for the purl side during the flat knitting might have solved this pattern, but I'm going to try not to worry about it. I don't know that I'll ever run into this issue again. If I do, I hope I remember.

After finishing, I wondered why the pattern had the neck opening bound off and then stitches picked up in the exact same place in order to knit the collar. Why not just put them on a stitch holder? It was too late for me to do anything about it, but still, I was curious. Just yesterday, I read a recent post on the Yarn Harlot's blog that explained exactly why the designer did this.

Notice how large the neck opening is? Binding off created a firm, unstretchable edge on which to build the collar. If I had just put the stitches on a holder and continued on later, the neck opening would have been very stretchy and droopy, and the picture above would have to have been posed differently.

I've lived with this project for a long time. I'm not sure what to do next!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wet Checks

The British Checks sweater is blocking on my Texas Checks beach towel. The Texas Checks are bigger, of course.

This past week I finished the second sleeve. Last night, thinking I was done, I tried it on Jeff and we noticed that the sleeves were a bit long. I know you are all shocked. I think it's genetic. However, unlike previous sleeves I've mangled, fixing this was much easier. I got up this morning, and within an hour I had them shortened. So much easier to unravel and re-knit shoulder-down sleeves than cuff-up sleeves.

This afternoon it was weaving in ends (a surprising number to me considering this was knit in the round and has few seams) and blocking. Stretching it out the two extra inches needed side-to-side was not a problem.

One weird thing. After soaking in the tub and holding the wadded up fabric in my hands to drain, I noticed a strange fine grit in the tub. Like I'd just washed lettuce or spinach. Let's agree not to tell Jeff about this. He already doesn't like to know that I occasionally found what I hoped were bits of hay in the yarn.

The next post should have some modeling shots.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Out of the Weeds

Doesn't it seem like this is the only thing I ever work on? It does to me. Ever since I've finished the stranded part, it seems I haven't been able to work on the ginger portions for more than a few rows at a time. Yesterday, I knuckled down and finished the first sleeve. Progress!

I picked up 124 stitches instead of the 136 called for in the pattern. It just looked right. Every time I tried to pick up the number called for, it just seemed too bunchy and crowded. There were a certain number of decreases that had to be done every 4th row 30 times, I figured out how many stitches that would leave me with, and then stopped at that point. I still ended up two stitches off but two stitches on a sleeve circumference on size 3 needles shouldn't make much of a difference. I tried it on Jeff and the length seemed right.

I don't know how I would have been able to knit this sweater if I wasn't able to holler at Jeff every few hours to try it on for me. He has a real career as one of those dress forms they have on Project Runway. I hope he doesn't get sick of this sweater before it's even finished.

I dreaded the garter stitch cuff for the sleeve. Since the hem rolled so badly, I expected the same result for the sleeve. In fact, I expected it to be worse because it has one less row of garter stitch than the hem. But lo and behold, there it was -- just lying there, tame as can be.

So it's on with the second sleeve, the stitches for which have already been picked up, a little bit of garter stitch around the neck opening (I wouldn't really call it a collar), and then the weaving and blocking. There's some light there at the end of the tunnel.

And plenty of light in my sunny back yard. Now to tackle some of those weeds that are marring my new landscaping...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Head Cold

I'm not one for doing spur-of-them moment projects. I need to dream, plan, agonize, and re-knit large sections of most projects. Part of the pleasure I take in knitting definitely takes place in the time when I'm "fixin' to knit" as we say in Texas.

I broke out of character yesterday and knit this. I cast on in the early evening and by 9:30, it was done. From LYS to finished product in less than 6 hours. No speed record, but not the way I usually do things.

Melissa, one of my knitting friends, put out an APB to get sleeping hats knit for soldiers in Iraq. Seems one of the things they have to deal with over there this time of year is sleeping with very chilly heads. Helmets don't work well for sleeping. So a friend of Melissa's is gathering hats together to send over. She shared a pattern with us and asked us all to chip in. I didn't think I would be able to get to it for a while, but once I got started, it happened fast.

I bought one more skein of yarn (good ol' Cascade 220) than I needed, and this took less than a skein. So I might make one for myself. I might even modify the pattern so that it decreases like the HalfDome hat I made a while back.

Glad to do it. And to the soldier who gets this: stay warm and stay safe.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Compounding Interest

After a week of alternatively ignoring, obsessing with and chasing my dog off of the British Checks Sweater, I decided to remove all of the ginger sections and start over. My gauge was just way too off and the yoke, shoulders and sleeve were all looking way too bunchy. I made my peace and frogged.

As you may or may not be able to see, my gauge is a little tighter in the part on the needles in the bottom half of the picture. I measured in several places, and it seemed I was getting 6 stitches per inch on the size 4 needles. Currently, I'm getting 6.5 stitches per inch on the size 3 needles. The pattern calls for a gauge of 26 stitches every four inches, so size 3 needles it is.

This may sound like a slight difference, but 6.5 stitches per inch with a 312-stitch circumference results in a 48" chest sweater, whereas a gauge of 6 stitches per inch would result in a 52" chest sweater. Big difference, size-wise. Gauge sneaks up on you kind of like compounding interest. Small differences in percentage points (or stitch gauge) can make huge differences at retirement (or a finished sweater).

And all of this I knew going into it. I need to pay more attention and measure as I go. I'm hoping I'm back on track now.