Friday, December 26, 2014

In the Winter, When It Drizzles

Greetings, from the City of Light! Germany and France have been beautiful, and thankfully, the only wet weather we're likely to have is tonight. We had a soggy walk back and forth to dinner this evening, but it was well worth it. Things will be a bit drier, if colder, for the rest of our stay here in Paris.

My mad dash of Christmas knitting was well worth it and seemed to have paid off. I've been enjoying the blue seamless hybrid sweater that I finished just before we left and have gotten to wear it a few times. I'm still cold much of the time, though. I'm amazed that in a sweater I can only wear comfortably for a few days each year in Texas, I'm shivering in Germany in France. I should have brought some long underwear, I think. Still, it has helped some, and I hate to think what shape I'd be in without it.

The day before we left I cast on for a gift for my sister-in-law, an active duty colonel in the US Army who works so hard when we come to visit. She deserves something nice, if anyone does. I saw the Cosi Cosa cowl in the latest edition of Knitty and thought it would be perfect for her. I even had some heathered dark green yarn that was just right for it. I just worked on it during the evenings like it was no big deal, and I think she was really surprised when it turned out to be for her! I had a bit of a challenge blocking it in a damp German winter, and it might have been a tad moist when I gave it to her, but I think it looks great and once it's dry, should keep her neck nice and warm. And it's quite modest, size-wise, compared to some of the king-sized neckwear popular amongst European women.

On Christmas Eve, the kids got to open their ManU hats. I think thy liked them. Gracie had been worried about how she would "represent " at the big game, so she was very excited. Hers was a bit big, but she'll grow into it. Michael didn't take his off the whole evening! This afternoon, my brother sent me this photo of his family watching Manchester United playing Chelsea in their Boxing Day match. I'm eager to hear if they got any comments from any of the local fans.

It's been a great trip, and we still have a few days to go. If you want to hit me up to see some more photos from the trip, I'm sevenlefts on Instagram. Send me a request and I'll add you. I haven't stumbled into a yarn shop yet, but hope to find the time soon. I hope all of you are enjoying this holiday season and that we all have a fabulous new year.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Der Blaue Pullover

I did it! Twenty-one days from start to finish. Looks like I'll be cozy while in Germany after all.

Evenings this past week were mostly consumed with working out the shirt yoke and collar details, grafting the underarms, weaving in ends and blocking. I decided to go with the 34 stitches across the yoke. I was totally overthinking the whole thing -- 32, 33, 34 -- it really didn't matter. It all came together the way it was supposed to.

I found that the grafted line on the back of the left shoulder is more visible in this one than on the one I made for Jeff several years ago. But I still ended up with that expected little leftover half stitch at the end of the grafting that Elizabeth Zimmerman calls the Schönheitsfehler, or "little mistake of beauty." I like that I was able to fudge it away, but I also kind of like knowing that it's there.

And I also like how the hems and cuffs calmed down and flattened a bit with blocking. Now the lighter Marine color just barely peaks through. I've always liked a photo that Caro posted showing the contrast color when she made a version years ago. In fact, her sweater inspired my first attempt, and thus this one. You can see a bit of the contrast peeking out at the cuff. The colors go so well together. I'm not always confident on my ability to match or contrast colors effectively, but I think I made some good choices this time around. Speaking of cuffs, you might think that the sleeves are a bit long and I wouldn't argue. But I did that on purpose as I have rather long arms and just hate having to pull sleeves down all the time. Not as long as those as of Charlotte Greenwood who played Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!, but still, I have to be careful.

So the sweater is ready to go. And so are the ManU hats that I made for my niece and nephew to wear at the Boxing Day game in Manchester. Here they are side by side so that you can see most of the motif that goes around the circumference. I pointed them out to my brother a few days ago, and he said they would be perfect. In fact, my niece had been worrying about how to "represent" at the game, so she'll be pleased to have something like this. I hope to get some pictures of them at the game.

Glad to have this finished in time. I was skeptical at first. It was one of those "It's so crazy, it just might work" moments. Luckily, it did. Hah -- maybe I should have patched together one of those 80s movie montages with some sort of power ballad playing in the background.

All I need to do now is get some packing done before we go. And some house cleaning. And maybe a bit of yard work. And a bit more shopping. And get some gifts over to my sister's house. And one more chorus performance. Oh, and I need to get something on the needles to work on while I'm "over there." I sort of have something in mind...



Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Pits

Just a quick post to log my progress this week. I didn't think I would get a lot done, but I did manage to finish the second sleeve and attach both sleeves to the body of the sweater. Now I am working on the raglan decreases that draw in the sleeves and the body as I work toward the yoke and the neck. You can see little creases down the sleeves. Those are where I jumped across from one side to the other using the magic loop method rather than a very small needle (which tends to hurt my hands) or double-pointed needles. I think they'll go away with a little steaming. I hope so anyway. The little gold threads are where the armpits will be grafted. Except Elizabeth Zimmerman refers to that part of the human anatomy as underarms. I don't think she would never write the word armpits.

Rotating from the pits to the shoulders, I've had bit of a counting and/or math issue. The sleeves end up with an even number of stitches before attaching them. And the decreases eat up two sleeve stitches each time. Yet Elizabeth Zimmerman's instructions say I should have 33 stitches when I begin the yoke. How can that be? I've pored over the text like a Talmudic scholar seeking clues or looking for overlooked hints, but I've come up with nothing. Should I only do one of the pair of decreases on the last round? Or should I settle for either 32 or 34 final stitches and just deal with it, keeping in mind that all subsequent instructions will need to be followed by "plus 1""or "minus 1"? I still have a few rounds to worry about it. Rest assured, I will.

The end is in sight, though, and it looks like I'm on track to get this finished before we leave in just 11 short days.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

8 Days In

I managed to do a LOT of knitting this week!

I finished the body of the sweater up to 18 inches. I originally knitted up to 18.5 inches based on my memory of reading the notes from Jeff's version a few weeks ago, but realized I had remembered it wrong. This meant I had to rip back four rounds and try to get 200 stitches back on the needles. Not the most fun way to spend an hour, but it worked. I'm so glad I made those notes in Ravelry years ago. They've really come in handy.

I felt like I needed to get a lot done this holiday weekend while I could. Next week, the Capital City Men's Chorus will be having extra rehearsals for our upcoming holiday concert, and I won't be getting a lot done knitting-wise. Still, it looks like I'm on track for getting this finished before we leave for Germany in a few weeks.

The sleeves knit up much more rapidly than the body of the sweater. I finished the first one at 19.5 inches and the second sleeve is about a third of the way complete. To make the inner color of the cuff work I cast on four more stitches than were necessary, decreased down to where the actual end of the cuff starts, switched to the darker color and then increased on the way up. On the 13th row I caught the cast-on edge on the back to create the hem. The edges are a bit bulky but I think they will be a little less rounded once I have a chance to steam block. Right now, they look kind of spring-loaded.

I'm not sure what kind of collar to make. For Jeff's, I did a 1x1 ribbed collar twice as long as needed and then sewed it back under. But this is a little small for my big head. I still have some time to think through options. Not a lot, but some.

A note on color: my phone seems to push this color of blue more toward violet than it really is. It's more of a softer midnight blue in person. Which is a little more me.

[After crashing one post, I hastily composed this post using the voice recognition function on my tablet. Upon re-reading, I was horrified at the weirdness wrought by auto-correct. If you read this earlier, please give it another go.]

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chattily Written

As I thought about our upcoming trip to visit my brother's family in Gemany this winter, I thought back on my cold-weather sartorial options from last year's trip. While I did take my then newly-knit Redford Sweater, I wasn't entirely happy with it -- mostly due to seaming unevenness and a length problem. Crop tops on middle-aged dudes are not attractive. I do have some vests, but what I didn't have was a nice pullover or jumper that fit. The question entered my mind: Do I have time to knit one before we leave?

I always liked the Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern for the Seamless Hybrid Sweater from her book Knitting Without Tears. I made one for Jeff years ago. He doesn't wear it much, and these days it's a bit large on both of us. I still might take it, but I still want one of my own. So yesterday, I went to the yarn shop and got some skeins of that great workhorse of a yarn, Cascade 220. I bought the colors based on what I liked, but they were only numbered. At checkout, I found the colors were called Atlantic and Marine -- perfect for a trip across the ocean, even if it's on a plane.

Atlantic is the darker blue main color. Marine is a lighter blue that's going to serve as a peek-a-boo contrast for the insides of the hem, cuffs and collar. I started the hem with Marine, using the German twisted cast-on. I worked 12 rounds, switched to Atlantic and worked 12 more rounds, then knit the next row together with the cast-on after folding it under. It's exactly the effect I wanted. The Marine just barely peaks out, and the edge doesn't curl. Plus, it's a different hem look from the usual ribbing. This detail picture shows the hem from the back.

I've mentioned this before, but I really enjoy Elizabeth Zimmerman's patterns. They're the knitting equivalent of story problems in mathematics. There are rules and proportions you have to figure out, mixed with commands one would be wise not to ignore. All interspersed with her razor-sharp wit. As she herself says, the instructions are rather "chattily written." Let's just hope I can keep up with the conversation and get this cranked out in the next three weeks.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Lots of knitting wrapped up this week, having to do with feet and foot-intensive sports.

First, I finished the Inlay Socks I'd been working on in fits and starts since this summer. I used some yarn I bought at a shop in Idar-Oberstein, Germany last winter while visiting my brother and his family. This pattern features diagonal traveling twisted stitches that give the illusion of weaving. And best of all, the cabling aspect is done without a cable needle or dropping stitches precariously off the main needles. Very fiddly and a bit difficult to get used to. I never could memorize the flow of it, but I still enjoyed the process.

These are a bit snug on me, but I imagine that's due to the lack of ribbing. They're 76 stitches in circumference, which is a tad bigger than I usually make, but the traveling of the stitches pulls the fabric in and makes it a bit inflexible. I made the largest size, but if you ever make these, consider looking at the next size up. Can't wait to wear them this week. The weather has turned chilly, making for some brisk mornings on my bicycle. My hands and face have been frozen, but my toes have been warm in my handknit socks, though now I'm faced with a pile I need to wash today.

We'll be going to Germany again this Christmas, and this time I'm planning on taking some handknits for our niece and nephew. They're quite the English Premier League fans, and their parents are treating them to see a Boxing Day match in Manchester, featuring their favorite team, Manchester United. I found a pattern in Ravelry that I thought might be a nice little something to keep,their heads warm during the match -- the ManU Hat.

I ordered the yarn, Knit Picks Brava Sport, a few weeks ago. It got here Wednesday and I immediately cast on. It's tougher than it looks. First of all, knitting with acrylic is always a challenge, but I wanted this to be durable. And there are some awfully long floats in the red and yellow sections, necessitating catching the unused color behind the work every few stitches. It pulled in a few places, but I think it mostly worked.

I made a few modifications. There were supposed to be additional Red Devils and a soccer ball motif in the black section up top. I couldn't get the floats to work around the corners without pulling. So I left them out with the idea of duplicate stitching them on later. But when I was done, I decided I like it better plain. And I added a tassel using all the colors and attached it with some i-cord. Overall, I think it looks pretty sharp, although I won't know until I see it on some little noggins.

Now -- to make another one. I'm playing with the idea of reversing the red and yellow in the pattern, but haven't decided for sure.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Border Security

I've never been happy with the button band on the Fine-Knit Cardigan I made last summer and this weekend I decided to do something about it.

I'd known all along from the sample pictures in the pattern book that this button band would be a bit gappy. In the original bamboo yarn it was even more of a problem. The fact that the band is ribbed only exaggerates the gaps. As you can see here, the effect isn't very attractive. I'd gotten to where I wasn't even bothering to button it while wearing it at work.

So I did a little research and consulted with my friend Abbe Saturday morning about some options. I ran by the fabric store and got some matching 5/8" grosgrain ribbon to back the band. After watching several YouTube videos on the technique, I sat down to work.

What I don't know about sewing. Geez. I decided to just run the ribbon continuously up the button band, around the inside of the neck, and then back down the placket. I pinned it flat and whipstitched (new skill for me!) it all the way around. It went more smoothly than I expected, although rather slowly. Today, when I finished, I had to figure out getting buttonholes cut into the ribbon. Ideally, I should have put the holes in with a button hole attachment on a machine before attaching it. Yeah, I know. Seems obvious now. Grosgrain frays terribly when cut, so I thought I should try to sew button hole stitch around the openings by hand. After several hours of practicing I realized this wouldn't be happening anytime soon. I had just about given up ever buttoning this sweater again, when I ran across another frustrated crafters solution.

Super Glue. Don't judge me. It worked. I just dabbed a bit on the back of the ribbon opposite the buttonholes, then carefully cut slits through the glued parts. No fraying. It's not beautiful on the backside, and if my skills ever improve, I can try buttonhole stitching over the glue-discolored sections -- maybe with individual plies of yarn rather than thread?

I'm happy with the end result, though. The edge is much sturdier all around. It drapes from my neck better, and the button band doesn't gap any more. I'm glad I went outside my comfort zone and tried this. I learned a lot -- maybe more about what NOT to do -- but I'll have a better idea how to approach this next time.

I really need to get a machine and learn to sew.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October Surprise!

My Machrihanish vest is finished! And it seems that it's going to stay together, despite my steeking mishap.

I've thought some more about it, and I do think that I made the crochet chains correctly and in the right locations, but made a poor choice in the yarn for the chains. The instructions called for sock yarn and the nearest at hand was some slightly slick superwash leftover from some previous project. I think its slipperiness along with my loose chaining was the problem. I would recommend using one of the less-used colors from your own vest, like the green in mine, so that the natural grabiness of the Shetland wool works in your favor. If you're nervous, you might consider making the neck hole steek seven stitches wide like the armhole steeks are constructed, rather than the called for five. A bit bulkier, perhaps, but worth it for the peace of mind? Think about it. The thread I used to sew up my disaster is just barely visible in the decrease columns next to the ribbing if you look at a larger version of the photo above. But seeing it while I'm wearing it requires a certain intimacy preserved for few.

The instructions called for steam blocking, but I usually opt for an old fashioned full immersion altar call dunking. My gauge often ends up on the snug side and I need the stretching power of a complete soaking. But as soon as I popped this in the sink, the water starting turning blue and I worried that it would dull the other colors. So I took it right out. Still, it got wet enough for serious shaping. With hindsight, I realize I should have followed those particular instructions. As it turned out, I didn't have to do too much stretching to get this the right size.

Most of the dimensions were right on. I had to stretch out an extra inch or so of ease from side to side. The length came out a half inch longer, but I have a longish torso, so that worked in my favor. The armholes, however, sit a little high on the garment and are the slightest bit snug. It may just seem that way because the shirt I was wearing under it is a bit big on me, but I would like just a bit more room. Some careful additional blocking might work for that, but I don't want to put any more stress on the cut openings than absolutely necessary.

I finished this Sunday evening, but wasn't able to take pictures until tonight. As it was, I had to race home on my bike to catch the last bit of usable sunlight. Having really pushed it on the way home, I was a hot, panting, sweaty mess when I came through the door. Jeff was so patient to put up with my "art direction" (read: persnickityness) and did a pretty good job with the short amount of time we had in the rapidly dwindling autumn light. It couldn't have been fun putting up with me sweating in our mosquito-filled backyard wearing a sweater-vest in 80-degree weather. I hope I was patient enough. I look at this picture of myself and wonder...

All in all, this was a great project. I really love the balance of colors, and it has a wonderful symmetry to it in the size I knit. The solid arm and neck edging pull it all together nicely. I can't get over how different it looks close up versus far away. And as I've mentioned before, the crayon-like primary colors created wonderful patterns that meld together beautifully. Thanks, Katie Davies, for designing such a beautiful garment! More pictures are available over at my Flickr site.

I have yarn left over, more than I predicted. Maybe enough to make a hat? Not one to wear with this particular vest. That would be too matchy-matchy even for me. But Tony pointed out this nice hat pattern called Shwook, one of the examples of which appears to be made out of leftover Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage yarn. I'm really liking it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Masculine Mis-Steek

(My apologies in advance to Betty Friedan)

Disaster! Doom! Gloom!

During the week I crocheted my steeks; the crochet chain can be seen in gray sock yarn in the photo to the left. Yesterday I cut them without much fanfare, but with perhaps a touch of hubris, as we will see. After all, I'd done this before.

I spent the morning picking up stitches for the neck band, and then settled down for some simple 1x1 ribbing. But as I worked, I noticed the crochet chain was hanging loosely, rather than being snug up against my work. Closer inspection revealed that many of my yarn ends had worked their way out of the crochet chain!

This means I put the chain into the wrong parts of the stitches, cut the wrong threads, created the chain too loosely, or some unholy combination of the three. What to do? All I could get out of Jeff was sympathy and the sound advice to talk to someone who could help. I talked to Staci, and she talked me off the ledge. After discussing the problem with her and thinking through some options, I decided to hand sew the decrease row of stitches to the picked up stitches to minimize movement. When all is in place, I'll do some things to try and felt the backsides to further stabilize the cut edge.

I think disaster has been averted, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, I'll keep working carefully and try to keep the nausea at bay. I'm off to a conference tomorrow and I think I'll take a sock and put Machrihanish in time-out until I get back. Sigh -- it would have even wonderful to be able to wear it in Denver.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Machrihanish Bound

I had a bit of time to devote to knitting this weekend, and I've made some progress to share with you on the Machrihanish vest.

Major patterning is done! The reason this looks like a sack right now is that the arm hole and neck steeks have yet to be cut. Once the neck steek is cut, it will expand to be more vest-shaped. I'm actually looking forward to the cutting part. It used to be intimidating. It's till a sobering thought -- cutting knit stitches -- but no longer panic-inducing. As mentioned earlier, I will be reinforcing the cut edge with crocheted chains as the designer, Kate Davies shows on her web site.

I'm a little concerned about fit. It's measuring a bit smaller than my gauge led me to believe. But, it's also hard to judge while the garment is still bound up with the steeks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that cutting and a good soaking will help with that.

I was hoping I could get this finished before a planned trip to Denver next,week, but I don't think I'll be quite finished by then. I might be able to get the steeks cut, but I don't think I'll have the neck and arm ribbing done. And before I can do any of that, I need to make sure the ends are woven in around the first steek. I had temporary knots tied in the ends to maintain tension while working, but now I need to undo all of those and work the ends back in. Tedious, but necessary. Can't wait for this to be finished!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Machrihanish Progress

Just a short and long overdue post about my progress on the Machrihanish vest...

I've not been working on it steadily. Beginning-of-the-semester busy-ness, catching up with relatives and trying to get ahead on yard work has kept me away from the needles, but I'm getting to it when I can. I've been through three 42-row repeats of the pattern so far and am about a dozen rows into the armhole steeks. The decreases at this point are rapidly drawing in the circumference, so I was able to speed up a bit this weekend. It will only get smaller and smaller as I head toward the shoulders -- quite the opposite of center-out lace or top-down sweater construction.

I love making and looking at steeks. I've made both the checkerboard and striped variations. I think I like the stripes better. Easier to see when cutting. These are narrower than others I've done -- only seven columns instead of a safer nine or eleven. I think I might actually crochet these to secure them before cutting. I didn't on my last vest and it's sticky Shetland wool has held up just fine, but I'm worried that seven is too narrow a margin -- literally.

My 32" circular needle is getting a little too hard to work with, so I picked up a 16" 2.75mm needle this afternoon. I'll need it later for the neck and armhole edging, and in a few rows I'll need to start transferring stitches too it as the circumference narrows even further. It will be pretty crowded at first, but that won't last long.

I should have this finished by the time the cooler weather gets here. If it ever does.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Treasure Post

I received a letter in the mail his summer, which, while delivered in July, only now just made its way to me. It's wonderful beyond words and I just have to share.

I signed a short contract last academic year, and was away from work for most of July through this week. Getting back to the library after a break always involves a flurry of returning calls and going through email. It was halfway through Monday before I tackled the physical mail, and amongst the junk mail and magazines, I found a letter. A proper letter, with a stamp on it. The stamp featured a profile of Her Majesty and was postmarked Glasgow. What could it be?

An envelope of awesomeness, that's what! A Glaswegian Ravelry friend, Alison, had attended the Edinburgh Fashion Festival in July and got to meet Arne & Carlos, the Norwegian designers of the 55 Christmas Balls which I made two years ago. Alison thoughtfully printed out a photo of my completed set beforehand, and asked them to autograph it for me:

I can't tell you how wonderful it was to receive this. Alison sent it to me with a warm handwritten note. I'll treasure both, I assure you. And she was very resourceful in finding an address to mail it to. The librarian in me appreciates such skills. That someone I've never met would think of me and go out of her way to do this for me was truly touching. I will be sending her a proper thank you later, you can be sure of that.

If you want to see her great knitting (and yes, you do), Ravelers can find her under the handle banjocool on Ravelry. I especially like the small-gauge knitting she's done for Barbie and her Action Man!

Thank you so much, Alison. You really touched my heart with this gift.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making Rounds

On my list of things that needed doing during the summer was a trip to visit my Aunt June. She's always had interesting family stories to share and we've always got along well. I think our status as the eldest children in our familes made us simpatico, and her stint as the librarian in her home town was influential in my career choice. Plus, she's an important link to the family needlework and seweing heritage on my mom's side.

Jeff, my sister and our niece headed down yesterday to spend the day. She made us a yummy lunch (with the help of her grandkids), and I got to give her the Squared Away Throw I finished a few months back. As I worked on it, I thought the colors were so Aunt June, and this picture confirms it! It's almost as if she picked this outfit for the occasion. She was really happy to receive it, which, of course, made this knitter's day.

She showed us some quilts while we were there, including a baby quilt with little sheep and a t-shirt quilt she was making for her grandson, Thomas. She also is repairing a fan-patterned quilt that my grandmother made just before June was born. She would have been twenty-two years old. I love all the fabric prints, which probably came from old sugar and flour sacks. Some are really quite cool, although a few panels have disintegrated over the years. It's just so moving to touch these things and make these connections with my past. I'm glad Aunt June is taking care of it so well. She is planning on coming to the biannual quilt show here in Austin in a month or so. It's become a bit of a tradition, and I'm looking forward to it.

Speaking of rounds, I've completed about 60 rounds of the Machrihanish Vest, which is about one-and-a-half chart repeats. I think I like the darker band better than the lighter one, but they're both nice. Whenever I put this in strong light to take a photograph, it makes the colors come off a bit more primary-ish than I think they are in normal light. Also, I like the way this looks from a distance more so than I do close up. I've completed two balls of the Mussel Blue, and haven't finished the first of any of the others. It's looking like I'll have plenty. I still have a ways to go before thinking about steeking and decreases, so for now I'll continue making the rounds.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Scotch Swatch Not Botched

I began my Machrihanish Vest this week. Stranded knitting has its unique challenges and benefits and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy projects like this. Although I have some Scottish background, none of my ancestors came from the Shetlands as far as I know, much less the Orkneys or Fair Isle. But I do so enjoy the rhythm of this style of two-handed knitting with the myriad patterns that can be created. Maybe I'll find a link some day.

I started the swatch right away -- shown here. Did I mention challenges? Since this project is knitted in the round, I needed to make my pattern swatch in the round, too. I had to do this on a very long needle using a magic loop. I worried that the loop gap might cause gauge issues, but it wasn't that bad. You might see a little distortion running through the center of the leftmost "X" motif where the gap was. I steeked across the other gap and later cut it. I didn't reinforce it at all. Love the grabiness of Shetland wool! After steaming, cutting, pinning and drying, the swatch was at 37.5 stitches over 4", just over the called for 36. The lightest of tugs and I was just fine. Oh -- and US knitters take note -- this pattern calls for a 2.75mm US2 needle. Many needles marketed as US2 circulars are actually 3mm. Check the millimeter size! I had to get a new one. It's from Knitter's Pride, and I quite like it, though the dark cord can make the blue stitches hard to see.

The swatching directions call for knitting half the motif on one size needle and half on another, because there is an option for making the lower section narrower. I'm more tube-shaped than v-shaped, so I'm not bothering with the shaping. There's also an option for making the ribbing twice as long and then doubling it under for extra strength. This appealed to me at first, and I bought extra yarn for it, but ultimately decided it would be too bulky for Texas.

I started on the vest proper a few days back and I'm to the point that the swatch left off. I've only dropped stitches a few times, but found them and fixed them easily enough. I'm really liking watching this pattern grow. So far, so good. As is often the case, successful projects start with good planning. And this patterns' detailed instructions for swatching were greatly appreciated.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Vest Laid Plans

Some knitting has occurred in the past few weeks, but mostly planning for a new major project.

We got out of town for much of last week, visiting relatives in northeast Texas and spending some time in the woods hiking and relaxing -- and enjoying unseasonably cool weather, along with the sound of rain. Rain! I worked on a pair of socks that I'm making using a free pattern from Knitty and yarn I bought in Germany last December.

These Inlay Socks are kinda cool. The effect is a woven fabric, but it's all knitting. You do this weird technique that allows you to do two-stitch cables without a cable needle or slipping stitches off temporarily. It's fiddly and a little weird to get used to, since one stitch in each pair is intentionally twisted. I can't manage to memorize the pattern, but I'm liking how these are turning out. Things should go a bit faster when I'm only doing the complicated pattern over the instep rather than around the whole cuff.

While I was gone, some yarn arrived that I'd ordered from the UK. I tried to find a closer source, but just couldn't. It's Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage in beautiful, rich colors. Or, rather, colours. They're all solid, with nary a heathered color in the collection, and they're all based on colors found in traditional garments housed in the Shetland Museum and Archives. Nice.

I'm planning to make a vest using a pattern by Kate Davies called Machrihanish, after a village on the Mull of Kintyre. I love the bold designs, and since some of the vests I've made in the past, like the Hillhead and Vaila slipovers, no longer fit me well, I've got a great excuse to start something new. So my days ahead will be filled with careful swatching, two-handed stranded knitting, and steek cutting. Kate's pattern gives very detailed instructions for swatching, which I don't often see for stranded knitting projects, and I'm very appreciative.

Can't wait to get started.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Gist of the Twist

I've been on a roll with knocking out the projects these past few weeks. Today, I finished the Boyfriend Socks that I started back in May.

This pattern has been available online for free for years, but I just now got around to trying it. I used some Cascade Heritage Silk in the color Limestone that I bought when Janelle's friend (and now mine) Kris was in Austin for a conference and we spent a lovely Saturday driving around to yarn shops, knitting, and stuffing ourselves with barbecue. Good times! I started these socks shortly afterwards, but they too fell victim to my late spring/early summer knitting doldrums. But it was easy enough to pick up where I left off. I'd forgotten how luxuriously smooth this yarn is to work with. It can be a splitty with my sharp dpns, but totally worth it.

The construction is rather straightforward in this pattern. They're made toe-up using the magic cast-on. I followed the instructions for increasing on the adjoining edge stitches, but I wish now that I'd offset them by one stitch. And I'm not all that great with wrapped short row heel construction, but at least they look uniform.

I really do like the cables and how they drift back and forth across the ribbing in little bunches of three. Once I figured out how to count rows to find my place it was easily memorized. And the generous yardage on this yarn meant I could take these a little further up the calf before the final 1x1 ribbing and the sewn bind-off.

Those are Jeff's feet modeling in the top photo. He'd rather model than put up with my somewhat demanding photo direction. But he did mention how silky smooth these were -- this from a man who thinks most handknit garments are "too scratchy." Maybe someday I'll make a pair for him, although I suppose I'd have to change the name to Husband Socks.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Lunatic Fringe

Started back in November, and all but abandoned for the last several months, the Squared Away Throw is now complete. I powered through the final third this past week and spent a big part of yesterday cutting and knotting fringe.

I just completely lost interest in this at some point, and set it aside with hopes that it would call to me again. It never did. Earlier this week, the blanket and I had an "it's not you, it's me" conversation and decided to end things amicably. Without going into the sordid details, I can report that we will be living apart and that we wish each other the best.

Part of our tension stemmed from, well, tension. I could never get it right, with the result that this throw is 50" x 32" rather than the pattern's "60 x 39". Not such a big thing for something that doesn't have to fit a body part, but still quite annoying and yet another reminder of the importance of mindful swatching for achieving the proper gauge.

I'm also not convinced I got the start-of-row triangles correct. They're sloped and wonky-looking. I noticed that this edge doesn't appear in any of the pattern photos (including mine!) -- so maybe it's intentional. Or, more likely, it just can't be helped because of the way the increases and decreases work when fitting triangles and squares together.

This project combined two things I'm not all that familiar with: crochet and entrelac construction. Trying to figure out where stitches went (or, indeed, what constituted a "stitch") was tricky at first. And learning to think on the bias was weird, too. Oh, and a third thing: Tunisian stitch. Crocheters always tell me how much faster crocheting is than knitting. But my nights in Tunisia showed me that this technique is like crocheting in slow motion.

My friend Staci has an excellent tutorial on the basics of Tunisian crochet if you want to learn more. I referred to it more than once.


Don't get me wrong -- this is a really cool technique and I'm glad I've added it to my bag of tricks, but I don't know that I'll be doing it again anytime soon. I think this turned out well enough, and I'm glad it's done. Time to move on to other things, which, when the yarn arrives, will be this.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

In Fine Knit

A burst of speed right at the end and I've finally completed the Fine-Knit Cardigan, started in April. I got to spend much of the holiday weekend working on piecing it together and weaving in ends. Oh, the weaving in of ends. How can there be so many when using just one color and type of yarn?

I've got quite a track record for finishing sweaters in the height of summer. I'm a patient man, and don't mind having to wait to wear them -- better than finishing one just as spring begins -- but trying to get photos taken this time of year is a chore. The heat and the mosquitoes meant we were out in the back yard for maybe 10 minutes. Jeff, as usual, patiently put up with all my suggestions.

I think this sweater is going to serve its intended purpose well. Not only does it satisfy the unwritten official librarian work outfit regulations, it will be a good foil for my library's enthusiastic air conditioning. This will replace the Keruoac Sweater I've been using for the last three years. That garment is far too big for me these days and will get donated. I will say, though, that my new sweater is heavier. Being a 50/50 wool/cotton blend, it's a bit cooler, but all that cotton adds a lot more weight. Weight-wise, it reminds me of all those fisherman's rib cotton sweaters we used to wear in the 80s. But it will be a good option for wandering the frosty stacks.

If you've been following, you'll know that this pattern presented some challenges. I'd chosen this yarn because, well, I always wanted to use Rowan Wool Cotton, and because a fellow Raveler had used it for this pattern. However, I can't imagine she got anywhere near gauge. I had to modify nearly every cast-on, increase, and decrease number for the medium size using a ratio method. And that after going down two needle sizes. The whole thing had me on edge most of the time, but, as usual, math didn't lie. I'm just glad I listened early! The only area I didn't modify was the armholes and the corresponding sleeve caps. The numbers were small enough that I didn't think it would matter. The result was upper arms and shoulders that might be just a tad large proportionally. I'm hoping those who haven't read this will just assume I have naturally broad shoulders and huge biceps. Math doesn't lie -- but knitting can. I'll post modification details soon in the project notes.

After I finished major operations yesterday, I ran over to Stitch Lab to look for buttons. I'd heard from friends that they had inherited the pile of antique shell buttons that Silk Road used to have. I have fond memories of digging through those with Snowden several years back while looking for buttons for my Whitfield Jacket. The pile has since diminished greatly, but I was able to find 7 buttons that matched. Not the fanciest in the bowl, but the right size and beautiful in their no-two-exactly-alike simplicity.

So, now on to other projects. I have some socks to finish up, and a crocheted throw that needs some attention.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Since last checking in, I've been working on my Fine Knit Sweater. More off than on, but I had a productive spate of stitching-making this weekend. The right panel was a month-long project. In contrast, I cast on for the front left panel Friday night and finished it less than 48 hours later. I'd set a goal of getting this finished before the fall semester starts up in August. Doesn't look like that will be a problem from this vantage point.

My ratio calculation system continues to work. I had a moment of panic last week when I thought the sloped decrease across the chest wasn't steep enough, but it's okay. When I pinned all the pieces to check my progress this afternoon, everything matched up. Whew.

As I've worked on this over the weekend, I've been watching the opening World Cup matches. I'm not the biggest sports fan, but I do enjoy international competitions like this and the Olympic Games. Seeing people at the top of their sport doing their best (or not), is always satisfying, even if I don't always know what's going on. But I figure if were going to go see our nephew play in the World Cup some day, I should bone up on how this sport works. It makes for good background TV while working.

In the meantime, I suppose I should also work on my crochet skills so I can support my team with an attention-grabbing headdress, like the one I saw a guy sporting in a crowd of Ecuador supporters. How can anyone in Brazil stand to have anything like that on...ever?




Saturday, May 31, 2014


This is the longest I've gone without a post since I started this blog. I find that a bit frightening. My knitting has slowed down a bit, that's true. I'm just worried that I don't have much to say about it lately. I suppose my mind has been focused elsewhere, with a work-related project that consumed my creativity and imagination for a while. And other extra-fiberly activities. Perhaps I did let that take over too much. I've picked up the needles again lately, though. Sure feels nice.

Work continues on the Fine-Knit Cardigan. I've finished the back and managed to make some progress on the right front panel. I'm still using a ratio calculator to make necessary gauge adjustments to the pattern. It's like taking a standardized test. 140 is to 120 as 9 is to _____. The answer is 7.7 -- or, rather, 7, since that section needs to be odd-numbered. Kind of fun, but also a bit nerve-wracking. I've been taking good notes, though, to ensure that if it ends up misshapen, at least it will be symmetrically misshapen.

And I started a pair of socks to have something to knit for the flight to a recent conference. This is the beginnings of a pair of Boyfriend Socks by Alice Bell. I'm using some Cascade Heritage Silk sock yarn in a nice neutral color that's really showing the stitches off well. I'm almost to the first heel on these toe-up socks. They're not nearly as complicated as they look since the cabling only happens every 6 rows.

I'll try to be better about making progress and posting about it. Hope all of you are hitting your knitting stride during this lovely spring, or autumn, depending on your habitational hemisphere.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Compound Interest

I've been toiling away on a new sweater project off and on for the past few weeks, and was hoping to share some progress with this post, but a quick reassessment last night showed that I had foolishly ignored the laws of gauge once again.

I'm making the Fine-Knit Cardigan by Erika Knight from Men's Knits: 20 New Classics. I got some Rowan Wool Cotton in a lovely dark green called Deepest Olive. I needed something to replace my gray work cardigan since it no longer fits. And even in a Texas summer, an overly air conditioned library can be a chilly place to work. I thought I might unravel the old one and make a smaller size, but I wanted something new and different.

One of the reasons I picked this yarn was for the fiber content -- I didn't want all wool or all cotton -- and because someone on Ravelry had knit this pattern with this yarn and it looked lovely. But after knitting it, I can't believe she got gauge with the needles listed. I went down two sizes and still I was too large. I got started any way, thinking I was close. But as I should know by now, close doesn't cut it with gauge. While compound interest is awesome when it comes to long-term savings, it's hell on knitting. I went down two sizes further than I would normally make, and two sizes down in needles, and it still appears I'm going to end up with a sweater with a 50" circumference!

But I love this yarn and this simple pattern. I've decided to start over and calculate the cast-ons based on ratios from what I got in my first attempt. For instance, if I originally cast on 140 stitches for the back and it ended up 25" wide, to get a 21.5" back, I should cast on 120. I think if I take good notes and try to be careful about the proportions, I should be in good shape. Let's hope the sweater will be, too. I'm kind of nervous about this approach, but here goes.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Knitting on the Road

We visited our friends Tom & Shelly in Houston this weekend to see the penultimate performance of a play Tom directed. Ruined, by Lynn Nottage at Obsidian Art Space was quite intense and had some amazing acting. So glad we took the time to come down and see it.

While having breakfast the next day, Tom reminded me that we had been talking about me knitting him a sweater. We haven't settled on a pattern yet, but I thought a trip to the yarn store might help generate some ideas. If we found a yarn he liked, it might help us settle on a pattern. And luckily for us, there was a yarn store down the street.

I'd been wanting to visit Knitting in the Loop for a while, but we just don't seem to get to Houston as much as we used to. It's housed in an old 1920s-era bungalow that was moved to this site in the 1980s. It's very open and light with plenty of windows looking out into the southeast Texas spring sunshine. They had a lot of Rowan, Cascade and Debbie Bliss yarns, among others. It wasn't cluttered-seeming like some yarn shops can be. And the place was hopping with people knitting on a Saturday morning. Here, Jeff and Tom relax while I get to business.

We still haven't settled on a yard or a pattern, but we might be getting closer. While Tom mulled things over, I snuck over to look at the sock yarn. I really liked the Painted Desert sock yarn they had, which I had never seen, but the fact that it was just superwash wool with no nylon made me a little leery of it's ability to withstand wear and tear. If anyone has any experience with this yarn, I'd be interested to hear about it. In the meantime, I bought some more Cascade Heritage Silk in a creamy beige color. It's so nice to work with. And it looks lovely among the loropetalum in Tom & Shelly's garden. Spring has definitely arrived in this part of the world.