Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Cold Shoulder?

Not anymore!

Wow -- two weeks without posting. Chalk it up to a combination of not a lot of knitting getting done, and being busy with a new semester and the new additions to our family.

I had hit a wall with Jeff's Seamless Hybrid Sweater, not sure quite how to deal with the neck. First I tried a 2x2 rib. I didn't want to do a normal bind-off with that, so I reversed the position of every other stitch to change it to 1x1 rib, and then did a tubular bind-off Kitchener style. The resulting edge didn't look as neat as I'd expected, plus it was incredibly inflexible. As you can imagine, un-Kitchenering 84 stitches is a pain.

I undid it last weekend, and then this week I did a 1x1 rib which I would then bind off loosely, then fold in on itself and tack it down. I estimated and tried it on Jeff but when I was done, I could see that I'd knit too many rows. It looked, well, obscene.

So I untacked it, undid the bind-off, ripped back eight rounds, re-bound off, re-tacked, and then I was happy. Just a little weaving in and a little time with Steamy McVaporsen to get the whole thing into shape. I love my steamer. I just steamed one side, left it under the ceiling fan for a few hours, repeated for the other side, and I was good to go. No need to use wires or pins -- this thing fits perfectly and it's dry as a, well, dry sweater.

One good sign? Jeff put it on for these pictures and hasn't taken it off yet.

I will definitely knit another one of these or one of its variations in the future. What would I do differently? I would most definitely start the hem and the cuffs with the contrasting yarn on a provisional cast on and then knit the two colors together on the way up with the main color as both Splityarn and Brooklyn Tweed did. I would also like to think that I would pay more attention to gauge, so I wouldn't have to start over. Other than that, this is pretty straightforward. Having done one of these, I would think that the next time around the whole process should fly by much more quickly. Providing I don't wait too long. I put good notes on my Ravelry entry for this project, so there's that.

As an added extra treat, my sister, brother-in-law and niece dropped by today to give me a book they picked up at Half Price Books today: Men Who Knit & the Dogs Who Love Them: 30 Great-Looking Designs for Man and His Best Friend by Annie Modesitt and Drew Emborsky. While there are some good-looking patterns (and dogs) in here, I'm a little concerned about a book that lumps basenjis, size-wise, with Pomeranians! Leaving that aside, there is a great section on sizing-up your dog (and the dog's man) in order to get a good fit. I know it will be a great source for coming up with a pattern for Pona. Poor thing gets so chilly on walks, lacking any body fat. I got him a sweater at the pet store while picking up some food this weekend, but it's meant more for a terrier and the foreleg holes aren't big enough nor are they positioned properly. He looked like Jennifer Beals during walkies yesterday. Not a good look for 2010.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Patent Pending

I've finished the first Patent Stitch Sock. And it fits -- but just barely.

I confirmed that the first version of this sock's cuff had been knit on size 2 dpns. It fit, but the cuff looked ridiculously wide off my foot. So I ripped back and redid it on size 0 dpns. Nice size, but a little snug getting it around my heel. But once it's on, it fits magnificently. I'll show pictures of it on the hoof once after I've completed the second sock. I'm going to try and cast on today before Second Sock Syndrome kicks in. I don't usually succumb to this horrible disease, but I'm feeling like I might be coming down with a slight case.

Speaking of casting on, I really like the braided cast on that I learned at the same workshop where I learned the patent stitch this summer. It's a regular long-tail cast-on, but with a twist -- literally. Each of the two strands of yarn are doubled before casting on. Then, these two double strands are twisted in the same direction after each cast-on stitch, so that you are alternately casting on the solid and the handpaint color each time. If you can imagine doing a long tail-cast on, you would have the handpaint over your forefinger and the solid over your thumb for one cast-on stitch, and then switch for the next, making sure that each time the two strands crossed each other in the same direction. Very fiddly, but a cool effect. And very stretchy, too.

Last weekend I worked a bit more on the seamless hybrid sweater, but not since then. I did add the inner cuff to the one of the sleeves to see how I liked the contrasting color Jeff chose. I like! But I think I could have been better about tacking it to the inside of the sleeve. It doesn't pucker, but because of the increasing done early on for the outside of the sleeve, there are more stitches to sew down into than there are on the inner cuff. I'm not sure I spread them out evenly enough, and I'm not sure I kept them on the same row. Right now, a bit more of the inner cuff than I'd like is poking through, but Jeff seems happy with it. I think I'll tack the second one a bit higher up the sleeve and then have him tell me which one he likes better.

Friday, January 08, 2010


The majority of the knitting on Jeff's Seamless Hybrid Sweater is complete! I spent yesterday and some of day knitting up the saddles and the shirt yoke across the back. I'm pretty pleased with the fit, although it could be maybe an inch longer. Blocking should take care of that. The slipped stitch seam where the saddle joins with the body is rolling a bit now, and I think perhaps just blocking will cause those parts to relax a bit.

In yesterday's post I wrote that I'd decided to divide the 68 stitches remaining across the front and back thusly: 24 stitches for the left shoulder saddle, 22 for the neck, and 24 for the right shoulder saddle. After sleeping on it, I decided that it would be better to err on the side of a larger neck hole. Please don't infer anything about Jeff's ego based on this decision. I just know I would prefer to have more head room than shoulder room. So I adjusted the split to 22-24-22. This gives the neck hole a little over half an inch more room.

It was cool seeing the saddle being knitted horizontally and "eating up" (as Elizabeth Zimmerman describes on her The Knitting Workshop DVD) the stitches along the front and back. I did end up breaking the yarn and starting the second saddle fresh, although I suppose you could (and perhaps I was supposed to) knit around to that point. But I wanted the number of rows to be exactly the same on both sides.

And then came the moment of truth -- grafting the two saddles together with Kitchener stitch to make it seem as if there were one continuous pieces of fabric running from wrist to wrist and across the back of the shoulders. I'm not sure why I was anxious -- grafting stitches in worsted weight yarn is a heck of a lot easier than closing a sock toe on size 0 needles. I have to say the grafting line is all but invisible -- I even think that after I weave in the yarn I used for grafting the beauty mark, or Schönheitsfehler, where the grafting ends is going to look pretty good, too.

I've been trolling Ravelry, looking at the various ways that knitters have executed a collar for this design. I have to say that EZ's instructions are confusing me some. But the ends is in sight!

Canidae Update: Pona and Kate have been hunkered down for this latest cold snap. We went on long walks today and tried not to let anyone stop for any length of time. This morning's walk was in windy 26-degree weather -- this afternoon a more tolerable 32. But Pona needs a sweater. If he stops for any amount of time he starts shivering. This picture shows the same pillow as in last post's video -- although rather than the center of a king-of-the-mountain battle, it's a nice cozy spot for both of them to take a post-dinner nap. This is the first time that she has allowed him to share a pillow with her. Progress!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Baby New Year

Remember the Samantha dress I knit for a new cousin back in the fall? Her grandfather recently posted this picture. As you can see, she's absolutely beautiful. I made the six-month-old size for her -- and she's right at six months old now. Her great-grandmother reports that she's a dainty thing, so it may be a few months before it fits better. Since it's made of cotton it should still work for spring.

I love the mid-drool capture. Also, it appears that she may have lost one of the buttons already. I'm still new at the whole button thing. Anyway, I just had to share this wonderful picture of my littlest 1st-cousin-twice-removed sporting handknits made by Cousin Steven.

On the knitting front, I'm beginning the first saddle shoulder on Jeff's seamless hybrid sweater. Elizabeth Zimmerman's instruction in Knitting Without Tears are, in her words, "rather chattily written," and sometimes you have to infer that when she spouts out a number of stitches, she's often referring to a ratio or percentage based on the gauge in her example. It's up to the astute knitter to figure out how that translates to his gauge. Which is why when she says to "work 44 rows for the saddles," I was a bit thrown. Most of the percentages refer to stitches (or stitch gauge) rather than rows (or row gauge). 44 seemed like a rather random number.

But I think I've figured it out. It appears that the number of rows, rather than just being 44, is roughly one third of the stitches remaining between the decrease lines on the front and back. Here's a bird's-eye-view (ala Zimmerman -- only lame) of the neck showing what I mean:

Imagine you're looking down on the top of the sweater. With my gauge (only slightly bigger than Zimmerman's example), there are 68 stitches on the front and back between the decrease lines. She had 66. Now, as you knit up the saddle, you knit the edge stitches from the front and back of the sweater at the end of each row in a sort of short row move. So for her, with 66 stitches on the front and back, she would divide by three to get 22 stitches on each side -- doubled, that makes 44. In my example, I have 68 stitches, which doesn't divide as well by 3, so I'm going to divide my front and back thus: 23-22-23. Doubling the 23 gives me 46 rows.

Is this what she's saying? I have to say, no one challenges a knitter to think more than Elizabeth Zimmerman. In my case, that could be a dangerous thing. Someone please tell me if I'm totally off on this. I'll post pictures soon, I hope.

And because if my life this week could be described in term of an Elvis movie, it would be called "Dogs! Dogs ! Dogs!," here's another video of Pona and Kate.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pona and Kate

Today, we officially adopted two rescued basenjis -- Pona, a two-year-old male, and Kate, a three-year-old female. It's been almost a year since our dog Silas passed on, and it sure is nice to hear the padding of paws and jingling of collars again.

Those of you who follow the Very Pink blog have probably encountered Pona before. He was found on the side of the road in north Texas after having sustained some pretty serious car-inflicted injuries. After several surgeries and heart worm treatments, Pona is now well on the road to recovery thanks to Staci's tender loving care. Kate's early story is less violent, but still, she was given up for adoption and has been in BRAT foster care for a while with Wendy (who brought Pona down to Austin, btw). It turns out these two get along well, and since basenjis do better in pairs, it's now Pona and Kate Plus Two around here.

After a mercifully tearless farewell, we've begun the process of settling in and getting used to each other. Both of them had been over for a couple of sniff-and-snacks, so things started well. It's been interesting since then. Kate warned Pona about sleeping too close to him on a blanket with a quiet growl. Pona took Jeff's warm spot on the couch when he left for a second. A neighbor's barking dog started a short-lived basenji stampede. Pona developed a short irrational fear of the back door. One of them startled the other coming around a corner too fast and earned a yip. But so far, so good.

This afternoon we went for a half-hour walk or so. One of our neighbors saw us pass by and had to come out and meet the newest additions to the block. They were both very friendly and well-behaved -- if a bit tuggy on the leads in this new un-sniffed world of theirs. So much to see and smell. Their early excitement about being in a new place has turned into a ever-so-slight wariness about every new thing they encounter. We just served them dinner -- and other than having to pick up Pona so that he didn't try to "help" Kate finish her dinner after wolfing down his, everyone seems nice and happy. The dogs are both back on the blanket by the window, and Kate has allowed their hips to touch.

Jeff and I can't say enough good things about Wendy and Staci, the two BRAT volunteers who gave these dogs second chances. Their selflessness and dedication are beyond description. We're so glad to have these animals in our lives. Thank you both so much.

Next time: knitting.