Saturday, August 28, 2010


12 down, 88 to go.

I’m a little dismayed with my inability to seam these squares together consistently. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten down how to attach from side to side in order for the colors to line up, but I’m still having issues getting corners to match up.

The blanket is 10 squares by 10 squares. The 12 square, the second one on the second row, is the first one that is attached on two sides as it is knit. Fortunately for me, they were both picked up edges. Soon, though, I will be casting on half the stitches, picking up the other half, and then seaming on one side as I go. There are many possibilities. So while you’re basically doing the same thing 100 times, the way that each one is begun and seamed is a bit different.

I had to start several squares multiple times on the first row. There were a few times where I had to cast on half the stitches, and then figure out how to pick up while the yarn was on the wrong end of the needles. This just involved flipping the needles around, but it took me a long time to wrap my brain around this. In reading Ravelry, I see that others are running into similar confusion. My biggest fear right now is completing and attaching an entire squire only to discover that I put the wrong one in the wrong place. I’m constantly consulting the diagrams in the pattern to try to prevent this. If it happens, you’ll hear about it.

It looks like really sloppy right now, but hopefully things will come together as I go. And remember that there will be an i-cord edging around the whole thing that should hide a multitude of sins.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

All together now!

I’ve started the Tamarix Quilt from the Fall 2010 issue of Interweave Knits. It’s for Jeff’s cousin, who is expecting in December. I’m not quite sure what I’ve gotten myself into. I didn’t get to rest on my laurels quite long enough from my last project – “fiddly” is definitely a word that could be used to describe this. But I”m all about the fiddly.

This quilt is made of 100 tiny squares, about 3.5 inches across (mine are closer to 4). One can knit them, stack them like pancakes in an old cartoon, and then spend the whole time dreading what the Discovery Channel might dub “Seaming Week!”. Or, there are specific, if somewhat vague, instructions on how to pick up stitches and join sides together as one goes. That’s what I’m doing. And it’s really slowing me down as I figure out all the intricacies of hiding color jogs and figuring out how to combine picked up rows with cast on stitches, etc. etc. The instructions do advise to be careful in how you choose to proceed, noting that the careless knitter might end up having to join on all four sides of a square at one time. Really? Someone would knit the outsides first and then have to figure out how to join the squares in the middle? That might work in jigsaw puzzles, but not in knitting!

I’m using Cascade Sierra, a cotton yarn that is much less forgiving than the Palette I was just using for the vest. But I really like the colors. They are, from top to bottom: moss, heathered pansy (ahem), primrose and Vandyke brown. Can’t wait to see how it all comes together. Right now, it’s kind of like playing the world’s slowest game of Tetris.

“97 squares of quilt to go, 97 squares of quilt. Cast stitches on, miter like hell, 96 squares of quilt to go…”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vaila Versatility

The Vaila Slipover is done! During the week I did one armhole and yesterday morning I cut the final steek and finished up the second. This was the one with all the knots behind it due to the color changes. It was so refreshing to be able to just snip them all away and not worry about all those ends. I got the armhole ribbing done by late afternoon, wove in some ends, threw the whole thing into some water to soak, and went to a neighbor’s pool party. When I got home, I put it out to block – with LOTS of stretching – and this morning it was dry and ready for its debut. In August.

I’m so pleased with how this turned out. Despite the many anxieties I had about colors and weaving in and gauge and all those other things, this went relatively smoothly. And, it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. I didn’t work all that steadily on it; there were a few Mondays-through-Fridays where I didn’t touch it. About seven weeks start to finish, which isn’t too bad. I actually started thinking toward the end that I might have enough yarn left over to put some sleeves on this thing, but I was kind of ready to be done and when I realized I would have to chart out the sleeve pattern on my own, I quickly abandoned the idea.

While working on this, two great 20th century figures who knew how to work the Fair Isle look came to mind, and for fun, I thought I might model the sweater with these two gentlemen in mind. I know I’m going to regret this…

edwardfairisle The first is the future Edward VIII during his Prince of Wales days. This portrait of him and what I’m guessing is a Cairn Terrier, appeared in the Illustrated London News in November of 1925 and helped popularize Fair Isle garments in Britain during the 20s and 30s. Of course this is a long-sleeved version (pullover vs. slipover?), but I like how the ribbing around the collar and waist are very similar to the Ann Feitelson pattern I just completed. Clicking this picture should take you to more information at the website for the UK’s National Portrait Gallery.

I don’t have a Cairn Terrier, but in a pinch, a Basenji (this is Kate) works just fine. Pona doesn’t look nearly so composed or graceful when being carried (think baby giraffe), so I went with Kate. It was already a bazillion degrees outside, so we had to work fast. And those are shorts I’m wearing, not heavy wool pleated trousers like I’m sure HRH is wearing. I almost went looking for a cool hat like that, but then decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble for one shot. I really like this picture though. Kate is quite stunning in it! (Thanks, Jeff!). Also, be-heathered  Scottish braes are hard to find around here, so we had to go with a background of house.

onslow The second great icon of 20th century Fair Isle fashion is Our Onslow from Keeping up Appearances. Onslow is often seen wearing a sleeveless t-shirt or one of these sleeveless Fair Isle vests, which his stuffy sister-in-law Hyacinth is always trying to get him cover up with a jacket or something. Onslow has let himself go a long time ago, but he can strike up a conversation with anyone, is addicted to the horse races, loud television and crisps (smoky bacon flavor!), and has a keen interest in theoretical physics. What’s not to like?

So I thought I’d give it a shot. I don’t run around in heavy construction circles, so I don’t have access to a Fulton Hogan hat, but I did have one in a similar blue. I don’t think I could dress like this in real life, but I love that Onslow does. He must dress like this more often – note his lack of and my abundance of farmer tan!  I remember several episodes in which Onslow and Daisy’s large dog, who usually lives in the abandoned car in the front yard, was stretched across Onslow’s lap (and sometimes Hyacinth’s, to her dismay). I started to see if I could replicate this with Kate, but I think she’d had enough modeling for one day.

“Aw, nice!”

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Colllar-ed Greens (and Yellows)

Despite my fears that the recently cut ends of my steek would fray, unwind, unravel and otherwise disassemble themselves overnight, they stayed put. I spent a good chunk of the morning picking up stitches around the v-neck collar of the Vaila Slipover.

Ann Feitelson makes a point in her chapter on Fair Isle techniques that Shetlanders draw the yarn up from behind the fabric when picking up stitches. They find it distorts the pattern stitches less than pulling up bars and pulling the yarn from the front of the fabric. This made sense to me, so I did it. This meant a lot of yarn manipulation in the vicinity of my unreinforced steek cuts, but it didn’t seem to cause any problems, despite starting over several times. Whew. Clicking on the picture above takes you to the photo at Flickr with notes for more details.

Once I got them picked up (on a size 1 needle), the rest was a piece of cake.Just nine rounds of k2p2 alternating colors and switching the purl color every few rows. There’s a tidy little 3-stitch decrease at the bottom of the V, and that’s it. I had to agree that the join between these two fabric types works well and I have to chalk it up to drawing yarn up from behind. It’s a little weird at first, and I somehow managed to get all the oyster heather-colored stitches on backwards, but the overall effect is nice. I should do this all the time.

As you might be able to see, there is a bit of curliness to the bound-off edge of the collar ribbing. One of the finishing instructions suggests running a basting thread through the ends of the ribbing and drawing it in during the blocking process to take care of this. I’ll definitely try it.

So far so good. All that’s left to do is cut the armhole steeks and do the ribbing for them. And then some blocking and finishing. But the end is in sight! I’m really pleased with the retro look this is taking on. Seeing the collar ribbing does improve the overall look.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In Wool We Trust

Last night I finished knitting the body of the Vaila Slipover. Here it is, in all of its sack-o-potatoes glory.

And this morning, while knitting with friends, I did a 3-needle bind-off across the shoulders. It’s a cool construction. After putting some of the stitches at the back of the neck on a holder, a mini-steek about 6 rows long is added across the gap. Then, during the 3-needle bind-off, the mini-steek is connected to the main v-neck steek. This would only work if you had the correct number of stitches across the shoulders, which I had, because I’d changed the number of decreases as mentioned in the last post. I wish I could say that I’d done the math to figure it out, but I didn’t. This pattern doesn’t give much in the way of stitch count checks, but at the one point the pattern told me how many stitches I should have, I was spot on. So I was right. Yay, me!

I agonized over whether to sew this steek to reinforce it. So, after reading a bit about this yarn and thinking about it, I took the plunge. I decided to just trust that this wool would be grabby enough to just hang on. The next part of the instructions read, with alarming simplicity and off-handedness, “Cut neck extra sts up the center.” So that’s what I did.

Behold, the power of 100% wool! No reinforcing. No crochet chain. No hand sewing. No machine sewing. Just the yarn wanting to stick to itself. Now, I haven’t gotten all fiddly with it yet, so it remains to be seen how well this all sticks together. I’m thinking of running the steamer over the cut edges and giving them a little zhuzh to encourage the fibers to interlock. But so far, with the minimal amount of handling I’ve done, all is well. After the steam treatment, I get to pick up the stitches around the neck edge. That’s when we’ll find out whether my faith was warranted.

And even though I’ve cut steeks before, you have no idea how much my hands were shaking during all that snipping.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Neck and Neck

image Still plugging away, but as you can see, I’m getting closer.

This picture shows my progress up to about 18 rows before 6 rows or so of neck shaping. However, I’ve run into a bit of an issue. I’ve come across part of the pattern that I don’t think is correct. I tell myself (and others) to always trust the pattern, but I’m still apprehensive. I’ve checked for errata and written an email to Interweave to see what they think. Only a dozen or so people in Ravelry have made this pattern, so maybe it’s not well known?

Here’s the deal. The instructions for the decreases for the v-neck area say to decrease a total of 18(25,21) times. I’m making the large size. I’m thinking that the decreases should run 18(21,25), from smallest number to largest. The main reason I think this is that 25 decreases, in the row spacing required by the instructions, come to within 1 round of the total number of rounds needed before neck shaping. So that’s what I’m working with.

I’m nervous that when I get to some later part of the pattern, I’m going to have an “Oh, that’s why” moment. But I’m going to do it anyway. I’ll let you know what the good folks at Interweave say.

Oh --the men’s knitting get-together was fun on Sunday. There were four of us and everyone was very pleasant --- and talented. The other guys were relatively new to knitting and crocheting, or re-learning it after a long hiatus, but I was extremely impressed with their grasp of how knitting works and how fast they were learning (and wanting to learn) new skills. They were way ahead of where I was as a newbie knitter. We talked yarn, patterns, jobs, and life in general. All in all a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.