Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear Up

Much like the weather around here lately, I grow weary of the grayness, and am yearning for a little color. Shocking, no?

I made great progress on the gray Kerouac sweater this week, finishing up to the armpits, and then the front left side. It was one of those patterns that has AT THE SAME TIME written several times, and many sizes with instructions written in parentheses – eg., bind off 1 (2,3,4,5,6) stitches 3 (0,2,5,6,7) times over the next 2(4,6,8,10,12) rows – that sort of thing. I had to map it out, and I’m still not entirely sure I got it right. But I made notes so that if I did screw up, I’ll be sure to screw up the other side in exactly the same way. Good thing,  too, because the instructions for the right front of the sweater are basically to do what you just did, only backwards.

Having made it this far, I just had to set this aside and work on something else. Normally  I’m pretty monogamous with projects, but I got an itch. I decided to turn to the next pattern in the Woodland Winter Mittens. I noticed this kit isn’t available at the Knit Picks website. Maybe they ran out of some of the colors? I’m tackling the February pattern this time around. It’s not one of my favorites, but I kind of wanted to get these first three done in the first three months of the yearn. It’s the librarian in me. I did start this in the last few days of February. So that counts, right? The back sides of these gloves feature two different birds. In the picture here, you can see some branches. I think the beginnings of the tail might be in the small checkerboard pattern on the right yellow (cornmeal) section.

The pattern that runs across the palms is quite nice. I almost like it better than the patterned section across the backs of the hands. I’ve managed to make it up to the third color change today, and the thumb stitches are already off the needles and waiting patiently on that pale blue scrap of yarn. There are some truly long floats in this pattern – I counted 19 stitches once -- so I’m doing a lot of catching of yarn as I go. I thought that the dark yarn behind the light would be more noticeable, but I think the light yarn shows more behind the dark. Also, I’m carrying the dark color (bittersweet heather) in my left hand to make the images and patterns pop.

Finally, some very good news, today! Little Henry, the boy for whom I made the Pileable Pups last month, has made his arrival. Welcome to the world, Henry! And congratulations to Kristin and Josh. That’s one kid that should never, ever be cold.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Inch by Inch, Putting it Together

It’s come to this – a whole blog post about switching to a longer circular needle, and how that has changed my life.

I’ve been slowly slogging away on the sweater. 288 stitches of stockinette – a lot of knitting and purling, and every once in a while fixing that weird thing that I described a few posts back. It’s still happening, but I’m catching it more. I’m on my sixth ball of yarn – for the main part of the body, I’m averaging about 3 inches of length with each 50-gram ball.

This afternoon, I thought I’d take some picture and post about my progress. To prepare, I thought I’d put this temporarily on a long Size 1 or Size 2 needle so I could spread it out a bit. It just looks way to bunched up on the 24-inch Size 3 I’ve been working, and frankly, it’s been kind of hard to work with. I dug around in my knitting bag and what to my wandering eyes should appear but a Size 3 needle – with a 47-inch cable. How much easier my knitting on this sweater will now be!

But the thing is, I knew I had this needle. Once again, my brain outfoxed me – on two fronts. Part of my brain thought the fabric should be bigger than the needle – if you’re knitting in the round. That part of my brain didn’t remember that I wasn’t knitting this in the round. Then another part of my brain remembered that I’d had to borrow a longer Size 3 needle to work on the Vaila Slipover, but that part forgot that I’d needed a size in between the 24” and 47” inch versions I had. Now all these parts of my brain are reconciled and working together – right when I was about to do a lot of binding off and separating to create the armholes on the sweater.

Thanks, brain.Sometimes, I wonder what my brain would look like if I knitted during an MRI. But then I remember that I’d have to use non-metal circular needles, and it hardly seems worth it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gay Teen Ideas!

My friend Cliff ran across a campy knitting pattern cover and forwarded it to me last week. To my delight, this pattern book is available from various sites. I had to get my hands on a copy.

GayTeenIdeasYesterday, my copy of Gay Teen Ideas for Knitting and Crocheting arrived! It was published by The Spool Cotton Company, distributors of J. & P. Coats, Clark’s, Chadwick’s Red Heart, and Crown Zippers. The copyright date is 1944. I love everything about this cover – the Technicolor palette, the vintage bike, the position of the balls of yarn, and the subjects’ matching hair-dos!

There are tons of patterns in here, heavy on the accessories – lot’s of headbands, fascinators, coke (that’s right, small-c coke) bottle cozies, placemats, etc. But there are pretty small-gauge sweaters, too. The instructions are written in such a tiny type that they’re almost unreadable, but I’ve managed to peruse a few and, in general, I was able to follow them.

Bowling for Sweaters

Some of these “teen” models seem a bit mature. But boy, are they active! Playing records, skiing, riding carousels, bowling – these gals are the epitome of “on-the-go.” One of the photo spreads mimics diary entries, making notes recording how pleased the writer’s friends were to receive their knitted gifts. A sample: “Wore the new vest. I finished it last night. Midge was delirious about it!” That Midge – she’s never had a high level of self-control. In another entry, the writer asks her diary, “These crocheted luncheon mats are simply a knockout, don’t you think?” And as Ginger, pictured right at the bowling alley (apparently, she has confused bowling with soccer), states, “Simply couldn’t get along without this super cardigan that pals up with all my skirts.”

Chilly Sauce The copy throughout is an amazing time- capsule of mid-century ad-speak. Here’s an extended example:

“Listen, something pretty pulsating is going on.  The coke crowd’s going to town with its very own knitting and crocheting Teen Fashions, smooth and super with plenty of paprika to make those beaux’ eyes blink. One swift look-see inside is enough to make any girl with an oz. of get-up-and-go in her veins take to her needles. Want a ski outfit that will make you Queen of the Snow Carnival? Try your hand at Chilly Sauce on page 12.Looking for some glamour-drama. The P.M. sweater on page 15 is your dish. Get a load of the New-some Two-some jerkin and beanie that’ll make you a Scenic Distraction!”

There is also a kind of advice column by someone named Cathie Wells that offers the following words of wisdom:

records“Let’s start with that prize possession, P-O-I-S-E. It’s one part being sure of yourself and that comes from good grooming – omit pins in the hem, thank you, snow-white collar, shining, clean brushed hair, a lovely, clean, fragrant smell (deodorant dept, please note!). The other part is knowing how to stand and walk. Most people haven’t learned the simple art of holding their spines straight, and they develop torsos that look like the  bumps. Try this for size. Stand ten inches away from wall, knees slightly bent, arms at side. Lean back against the wall and settle the small of your back smack against it. Now poo-osh the back of your neck against the wall, keeping chin in and down. Make sure there’s no daylight between the small of your back and wall. Now slowly raise your arms straight over your head to wall and bring ‘em back to your sides without budging that back. Repeat ten times, A.M. and P.M.”

Wow. Now, I don’t know if I really need any glamour-drama in my life, so I’m not likely to be whipping up any of these patterns any time soon. But if anyone is interested, I can send copies of any of these patterns. I’m going to try and get this framed soon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Twisted Mister

Janna asked in the comments to my last post if I could get a picture of the problem I’d described of strange bumps on the wrong side of my stockinette fabric. Well, I managed to make the same mistake this evening, and I got a picture of it.

My suspicions were correct. I was indeed knitting into the stitch below, as you would do in fisherman’s rib. In this picture, you can see the problem right in the center. The stitch in the center is the one that was knitted into one row too low. You can see the double-strand that was created as the stitch above it was obliterated. Clicking on the picture will take you over to Flickr where you can see notes and explanations ad nauseam.

I don’t do this often, but right after fixing this, I found one in basically the same row just two inches over. As you can see the problem is most apparent to the left of the column of stitches were the error occurred, so it’s quite easy to ladder down the wrong column in trying to fix it. Which results in the twist being carried across two columns. I’ve managed to perpetuate the stitch over several stitches in the past, but now that I know what to look for, perhaps things will go smoother. I’m very carefully feeling along the back of the fabric as I knit, trying to catch these little problems before they’re too far away from the needles.

On a lighter note, my colleague Donna pointed me to a blog post at a website that discusses copyright issues. In this post, the author highlighted public domain pictures of people wearing sweaters. Several were of curling teams put on Flickr by the Galt Museum and Archives in Lethbridge, Alberta.

These sweaters are awesome – clearly made by skilled knitters with care and love. I really like the ones that feature intarsia curling stones.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Count Twice, Cast On Once

I’m kind of paraphrasing the old carpenter’s rule of thumb here – knitters know what I’m talkin’ about.

I’d been having some issues with that weird thing that happens in stockinette where every once in a while – like once every 2 or 3 thousand stitches, I’ll get the lines twisted. It’s like I’ve knit into the row below or something, and it results in a weird bump. If I try to fix it but choose the wrong column to ladder down, I ended up twisting two lines of yarn over multiple stitches. It’s bad. I’ve whined about it before, but can’t find any evidence of this happening to any other knitter on the planet.

After one such game of Crochet Hooks and Ladders, I decided to count my stitches, just in case I might have accidently created one or knit a few together – you know, the kind of spot check one does. I was 5 stitches off! I went back and counted several times. Instead of 288 stitches, I had 283. And I had done this on the cast on row!

Here’s what I think happened. As I cast on, I added markers every 50 stitches to ease in double-checking (hah!), when I got to 250, the digit 5 got stuck in my head, and I thought – “I need to add 33 stitches.” But of course I needed to add 38 to make 288. Because I was off by exactly 5 stitches, and because the start of the sweater features 2x3 ribbing, it looked right. But it wasn’t. I suppose I could have soldiered on, but I didn’t’ want to have to deal with all the weird little adjustments I’d have to do later to make sure that decreasing, and sleeve holes, and sleeve sizes, and all that stuff matched up.

So, I ripped back all that work and cast on again. Repeat after me:

283 ≠ 288

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Snow Day

On Friday, we enjoyed a rare thing here in central Texas – a snow day! The snow wasn’t really a hazard (although that’s enough to make most people around here freak out), but before the snow fell, we got a nice glazing of ice that was a cause for concern. So I got to stay home and work on these! On Thursday night, I cast on and finished the second cuff. Friday, I watched some movies and got 2/3 of the way up the hand. Saturday, I finished the hand and the thumb and blocked it over night.

I think they turned out great. It wasn’t until I got these laid out next to each other to take this photo that I noticed that the pattern continued across the back of the hands. The wearer wouldn’t normally see this when they’re on her hands, but you and I might if she were playing peek-a-boo. I didn’t quite have gauge – these were closer to 3.75 inches wide rather than the required four, but I was able to square that away in the blocking. Now I just need to find someone with dainty hands – and possibly a birthday in January – to give these to. I have someone in mind. Stay tuned.

In non-knitting news, Jeff and I took our dogs Pona and Kate (and ourselves) out for a bit of socializing. We attended a basenji birthday party. Basenjis only go into estrus once a year (most dogs do so twice), and around the same time, which results in most basenjis being born in either December or January. So a bunch of people from the local rescue organization put together a little party. I was a little worried about Kate’s behavior – she can be a bit snarly with other dogs. She did that a bit, but soon settled in. It was hilarious seeing a dozen basenjis running around being basenjis. Although I forgot my camera, my friend Yawpers took some excellent photos. Below are some of the ones featuring Pona and Kate, but if you have time, take a look at the whole set of photos – there are some amazing photographs there. And some beautiful animals.




So, so fun. I hope this become an annual event. More often than that would be even better.

I did work a bit on Kerouac Sweater this week. Not much, though. It’s the boring part – the ribbing is done and it’s just knit a row, purl a row, for the next several inches. I’ve decided to forgo the pockets. I wouldn’t have used them anyway, and I think pockets in  sweaters tend to make things (like me) look kind of saggy. It’s a little hard to take pictures of this – there are 288 stitches crammed on to a 24-inch needle, so things are squished. If I don’t watch it, the end stiches have a tendency to make a break for it.  I’ve used 2 of the 18 balls of yarn I purchased for this sweater, so I think I’ll have enough yarn to complete it. I need a break from the mittens, so maybe I can be monogamous with this project – for a while, anyway.

Stay warm!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


A blog I follow (but the advice on which I seem incapable of following), Put This On, recently posted about an entry in yet another cool blog, Nerd Boyfriend, which features cool pictures of the famous and not-so-famous wearing interesting clothes, and then points viewers to sites where they might obtain similar objects as those in the pictures.

The Nerd Boyfriend post featured a picture of Truman Capote skating at Rockefeller Center and taken by photographers at Life. What caught my eye was that Mr. Capote was wearing what appears to be a Fair Isle sweater – inside out. I love the contrast between the free spirit on the ice and the rather drab and robot-like people observing from the edge of the rink.

Capote1    Capote2    Capote3

If anyone could have carried this look off, it would have been him. According to the information at the Life website, this picture was taken in 1959. He cuts quite a dashing figure, very different from the In Cold Blood period, or from his appearances on afternoon talk shows in the 1970s, which is what I remember him from. In these pictures, he hasn’t yet donned the cravats and floppy fedoras of his later years.

Do yourself a favor and read Capote’s The Grass Harp if you haven’t already done so. Or even if you have. There’s something to be said for looking at life unconventionally.