Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tendonitis. :(

Though I've tried and tried to deny it, my tendonitis in my right hand is officially acting up. Boo. I've taken one day off from knitting this week, and I am afraid it's going to take another couple of days of rest at least to get it down to a manageable level. SO annoying. I first got it when my oldest daughter was tiny and, in hindsight, colicky--the constant holding, breastfeeding, holding some more, breastfeeding some more, rocking, and well, you get the idea...all of that was too much for my poor hand. I had so much pain that most ordinary motions were excruciating. My doctor had me put my right hand and wrist in a splint, and I promptly got tendonitis in my left hand from overuse in compensation. Some physical therapy and almost a year later, my hands were fine again. I didn't get it at all with my son, since he wasn't much for the constant breastfeeding and holding, but periods of intense knitting will get me every time. The things we suffer for our craft!

At least embroidery uses different motions, so I think I am ok to keep working on my mom's bag. Send healing vibes my way, please!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Own Personal Mary Poppins

When I saw the pattern for the Weekend Getaway Satchel, it was one of those "lightning strike" moments--I knew it MUST be made for my mom. One of the first movies she saw in the theater as a kid was Mary Poppins, and she still loves it--but most importantly, this bag is a symbol of what she has been to me over the past year and a half. She and my dad, through various life circumstances, found themselves with a job that enabled them to live anywhere in Southern California, so they moved right across the street from me to help me through treatment for and recovery from a chronic illness. The many hours she's spent playing with my children, running errands for me, folding laundry, painting my walls, picking up toys, and much more, have literally made my life livable. Just as Mary Poppins seemed to have everything that could possibly be needed in that bag of hers, my mom has somehow managed to anticipate our needs and fill them even before I knew what they were. As she and my dad get ready to return to their regular lives in the next few months, I wanted to make her a carpet bag as a reminder of my appreciation.

I knew this would be a time-consuming task, but since I had never done intarsia before I didn't even really know what to expect. I knitted the solid-colored back, sides, bottom, and straps first; that way when I started the intarsia panel I knew exactly how much time I would have to finish before I started the colorwork with confidence. I had to laugh at myself half-way through the first row when I realized that I had only half as many little bobbins as I needed, since I didn't realize that each section of black between the colored spots on any given row would require its own little yarn supply!

I guess I shouldn't really be surprised that I chose something this big for my first colorwork, considering that my first cable project was this:

You know, though? There really is something to be said for going "all in." Sure, the first few rows of cables or intarsia were a little shaky, but when you have so much practice right at the beginning, you can't help but learn quickly how to make it look right. After about the 15th row of the colorwork, I was twisting the yarn together when switching colors like a pro! It became very natural to work with the bobbins and maneuver the whole thing on my lap, and after finishing the panel I have the confidence to tackle any intarsia! I am no longer scared of it. (Side note: I am still very afraid of Fair Isle...should I start with an adult male sweater? *cackle*). The other nice thing about starting with this particular project is that it's going to be felted, so I knew that any holes between colors could be stitched up and the washing machine would hide a multitude of sins.

Here's the front of the bag (I shared the back's tangle of ends to weave in here). It's about 33 inches from bottom to top, to give an idea of the scale.

Today, I've been working embroidering stems, flower centers, leaf veins, and more to finish up the floral pattern before felting--this might take nearly as long as knitting the intarsia did. And, in keeping with the theme, it's also my first embroidery!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finished: Delancey Cardigan/WIP: Weekend Getaway

My Delancey Cardigan has been finished for a couple of weeks now, and I had high hopes for a real photo shoot with this one. I wanted glamour shots, darn it! But with the holidays, finding time and a willing photographer was too hard and I decided the inside photos would have to do.

The pattern is by Alexis Winslow (just a tip: it can be purchased through the Knit Picks site for a few bucks less than the Ravelry download costs), and I'd say it's a great pattern in every way. If you get gauge, you're off and running since the pattern is very specific and clear for row-by-row instructions. I mentioned my short row problems earlier--the pattern doesn't specify *how* to do some things, just that you need to do them, so I'd say it's not a complete beginner pattern, though. It's totally seamless, so if you like that sort of thing, this is a perfect cardigan!

I used my go-to yarn, Knit Picks Swish DK. I love this yarn--it's soft, washable, and comes in beautiful colors. When it's knit at more of a worsted gauge, the fabric is so light and drapy, yet snuggly too! The colors in Delancey are Beach Glass, the perfect greeny-turquoise, and Pampas Heather, a surprisingly interesting and complex neutral. I would call it green, but as you can see, bronze buttons look like they were made for it:

In that photo you can also see the slight fuzzing on the sleeve that happens with wear--I've been wearing this a ton! Usually I'd take a sweater shaver to it, but I thought someone might be interested in what the yarn looks like after a few wearings.

One thing I am not too happy about is that since this is knit at 18 sts/4 in with DK yarn, it's pretty loose, and my purse keeps catching on it! I've had to carefully work several snags back into the sweater.

Anyway, the fit is really nice. I made the 36" size, which matches my bust size with zero ease and has a few inches of negative ease on the hip--the right choice for this pattern, I would say. It's very stretchy because of the diagonal construction. After wearing it a bit, I ended up sewing down the back of the shawl collar because it wouldn't stay folded properly. Once I did, the front of the collar looked perfect, so I'd recommend doing that.

It feels good to be done with this, because I sort of fell out of love with it as I went along. I've realized that I don't have very many "plain" sweaters, the kind I can just throw on with a casual outfit and run to the park. I've got one in the works now that is really just a glorified hoodie--I'll share more about that one later!

For now, though, guess what I will be doing tonight?

(That's the back of the intarsia panel for my mom's Weekend Getaway Satchel...almost done!! I'm really having fun with that project.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finished: Cinnamon Grace

I've been on an accessory kick lately...I think it has to do with the insane number of sweaters that are currently on the needles in varying stages of completion (off the top of my head, I can think of Pinnet, Que Sera #2, Featherweight, Bella, Cables and Lace Kimono, and Pas de Valse). Cardigans are definitely my first love; sometimes, though, a girl just needs to finish something in two weeks or less.

Cinnamon Grace by Katie Harris (Pattern is on her blog here and is also a free Ravelry download) wasn't finished in two weeks because I kept working on other things, but it really could have been! I used Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Queen Anne, frogged from my Froot Loop sock. Goodbye, Froot Loop--I hardly knew ye. It was gorgeous in the yarn and I loved the pattern, but it was going to be too tight and I knew it, but I kept going past the heel turn until I could try it on. Yup, too tight.

Rather than start again with the socks I decided to try a scarf--and I'd had my eye on Cinnamon Grace for a while. It's very simple to follow but makes an interesting knit because there are so many different sections of increases and decreases, and then you pick up stitches all along the long edge and do the lace part. It ends with a picot bind-off, which took For.Ev.Er. but I think it was worth it in the end. I didn't get out the lace blocking wires for this one, just soaked it then patted it out with my hands, but I still did gain many inches in length and the lace opened up nicely. (Oh my goodness, what a goofy face I have in this picture! It was the only one that was in focus, unfortunately).

This picture shows the color most accurately:

It was funny, I only had to frog a couple of rounds of the sock to finish the bind-off of the scarf, so now I still have a half-finished sock guilting me over in my knitting bag. I am not sure what I am going to do about that yet...maybe turn it into a pair of baby shoes for the gift closet?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I can't believe it...

But the knitting is finished on my Fireside (first blogged here, then again here; Ravelry pattern page here)! This has been over a year and a half in the making. It feels weird that it's done. I did the finishing as I went, so all that's left is to sew in the sleeves and sew on the buttons (I blocked the sleeves last week, but the rest of it has been sitting in vest form for quite a while).

I haven't fully appreciated the occasion yet. I am a little dazed. :) I took a detail picture of the sleeves the day I finished to commemorate the big day, but I can't wait until I can try the whole thing on!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finished: Honey Cowl and Toasty

After the Peaks Island Hood disaster, I cast on right away for another one but my heart just wasn't in it. I got a few inches past the first shell pattern and just realized I was only knitting it because I felt I had to conquer it, not because I loved it. And lets face it, that's not a good reason to begin a relationship. I wasn't enjoying myself, either, and I also decided that the dark brown yarn I was using didn't show off the stitch pattern's texture to its best advantage.

So, I cut that project loose and cast on for a second Honey Cowl. My first one [Ravelry project page link] ended up belonging to my daughter, and I've been craving a nice squishy cowl to wear on evening walks so I decided to try again. Just in case anyone wants to use this pattern, it's free from the Madeleinetosh website [pattern link]. It's really a simple, straightforward pattern and gives such a quick result! I used single ply worsted merino wool from, in the colorway Brown Lilac. It was really perfect for the pattern--the subtle color variation was played up by the slip stitch pattern.

I've seen many beautiful versions on Ravelry in Malabrigo and Madeleinetosh yarns as well. A semi-solid gives the most beautiful result, in my opinion! Anyway, I cast on for the largest size (it's wrapped twice around my neck in these photos), but I only knit about 8 inches instead of the 12 inches called for in the pattern--I used my nifty yarn scale to help me determine when I had approximately 50g left so I could make a matching pair of mitts.

I've enjoyed Leslie Friend's blog for a while (A Friend to Knit With) and I've had her Toasty [Pattern link] pattern in my queue forever, so it was fun to finally make them. I call them my hobo gloves, and they are so warm and snuggly!

The night I finished both of these projects, we went on a walk just before the kids' bedtime. There was just enough nip in the air from the marine layer that rolls in overnight, even 20 minutes from the beach where I live, that I was really glad for my new woolly accessories! (I've really got to teach my husband how to take knitting pictures...the one-armed look is getting repetitive, isn't it?)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Meet a friend of mine...

I don't have my latest finished object pictures uploaded yet, but I thought I would post today to give a little shout out to my friend "jmama" who writes one of my favorite blogs: Me Teach Kinder All Day.

If you have a Kindergartner in your life, you will love this. Jmama is one of the wittiest, most intelligent people I know, and she spends her days teaching the littlest of students. Her blog chronicles her year as a Kindergarten teacher, day by day. If you need a chuckle today, do yourself a favor and grab a cup of coffee or your favorite adult beverage, and start with Day One.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Short Row Happy Dance

I have figured out why one side of my short rows look wonky all the time!! And it turns out I could have corrected this problem months ago by simply re-reading the directions in the glossary of any number of the knitting books on my shelf.

The problem was...drumroll...I inserted the needle from front to back instead of back to front when hiding the wrap on the purl side.

AFTER I figured this out on my own by fiddling with my knitting for an hour, out of pure spite I looked up the little short row instructions at the back of Interweave Knits, Spring 2009 that I had used to learn how to do purl-side short rows just to say "Ha! You told me how to do it WRONG!!" and I found this little gem: "Purl stitch: On wrong side, work to just before wrapped stitch. Insert needle from back, under wrap from bottom up, and put on left needle. Purl them together" (p.108). *Blush*

So, all is right in the world. Interweave Knits knows what it's talking about, I know how to do the purl side short rows now, and I'm almost done with my Delancey Cardigan (this short row revelation happened while knitting the second sleeve cap).

Incidentally, this brought up an interesting knitting question. I am not a frogger. I know that the first three short rows on the second sleeve aren't perfect, and I also know that the entire back side of the short rows on the first sleeve aren't perfect, but this does not bother me one iota. I always read Ravelry notes about ripping back sleeve caps or shawl collars or cable sections three, four, or five times to get it right...and I always think "Why?" Fellow knitters, do you keep ripping until it's perfect, or just figure it's good enough?

PS I almost entitled this post "I'm still alive!" because I have noticed that any knitting blogger worth her salt has at least one post with that title. *giggle* Anyway, I am still alive and knitting, and although I've been busier than usual lately I do have some things that are just about ready to share!

Post PS I've started again with the DVD sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while knitting in the evenings. Bring on the witty banter and handsome, non-sparkly vampires!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Finished, I guess: Peak's Island Hood

Well, I did it. I dyed my Peak's Island Hood. And it was a complete failure as far as a wearable finished object goes, but it was a heck of a lot of fun! I will let the pictures tell the story...

Oh bummer! I used two different colors of yarn (Patons Classic Wool Winter White on the left, Aran on the right).

Hmmmm...they are both cream colored, so I will just dye the whole thing once I am done and have a beautiful Peak's Island Hood to wear this winter.

Break out the Wilton's food dyes I have been hoarding! I want a nice deep teal, so I used Teal and a bit of Moss Green to tone down the brightness.

Play mad scientist while cooking dinner on the stove just to the right of this little scene. Hey, they are food safe dyes.

Let it cook in the crock pot all evening while I have a lovely chat with one of my dearest friends who joined us for dinner (homemade chicken noodle soup, perfect for this blustery October day). It eventually exhausted all that dye, if you can believe it.

Pull it out, rinse and blot dry. Great color. (It's actually quite a bit more blue than it appears here...late night light doesn't help with photographing this color!)

Um. I still have a two-toned scarf.

So, what have I learned? Paton's Classic Wool in Winter White is muuuuuuch better for taking dye than the Aran color (the Aran was very blotchy and took up much more of the dye than the Winter White did). And dye-ing yarn in the crock pot is a very pleasant way to spend an evening.

Also, I've started another Peak's Island Hood, this time with two matching skeins of already-dyed yarn. :)

Let there be color!

Don't you hate it when life gets in the way of your knitting? I sure do. Between school, work, colds, things breaking in my house, and fall fun activities like a trip to the apple orchards, I have had to stay up into the wee hours of the night if I want to spend time on my hobby...then pay for it dearly the next day when the kids are up at 6:30 am and want to come crawl in bed with me. It's adorable, but of course I can't go back to sleep. I always have to remind myself that they won't be little forever, and just squeeze them a little tighter until I am happy to be awake.

Despite the lack of knitting time, I have:
  • made a very little progress on my Delancey Cardigan. WIP photo here.
  • nearly finished a Peak's Island Hood by Ysolda Teague (Ravelry pattern page.). In a wonderful bonehead move, last year I purchased one skein of Patons Classic Wool in Aran, and one in Winter White, but didn't notice the difference until I was three inches past the skein change in my Hood. Argh. Silver lining: There will be Wilton's food coloring crock pot dye-ing to write about!
  • knitted about 4 inches of the intarsia part of the Weekend Getaway Satchel (Pattern photo below from Interweave Knits, Fall 2005) .

So, leave it to me to choose a huge, involved piece for my first intarsia project! I had to giggle at myself when I started the first row and realized that although there are only 3-5 spots of color in each row, the black background in between also requires a separate ball of yarn. I had to wind about 6 balls of black as I progressed across that row! I think at this point, I am up to about 12 little bobbins at once. This picture was taken about 10 rows ago, and there are also some red and yellow patches involved now. It just tickles me to see all the colorful little bobbins of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes hanging off the back of the work.

This bag is a labor of love. It's not TV watching or social knitting now that the solid pieces are all done. I've even felted them already! As soon as I get some good pictures I have lots to share.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finished: City Cape with Bonus WIP Photo!

Since I've been working on so many things at once it's been a little harder than usual to see progress, but I finally have something that looks like a cape and a cardigan!

I am pretty much done with the Not-a-Poncho City Cape, from the book Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. I used Cascade Ecological Wool in color #8087, Coffee. It's a top-down, raglan shaped cape. It took me a little under two skeins, and I added several inches before beginning the arm holes, otherwise the armholes would have started half-way up my biceps. My only other modification was changing the trim to 3 x 2 rib instead of 2 x 2. This is one of the things I really wanted for my Fall/Winter wardrobe, so I'm happy it's done before the weather changes.

I don't know if the news has traveled out of Southern California, but we've been having record heat around here (113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles and at least that hot where I live!) so I just couldn't face stepping outside to model my wooly cape. It's pretty much done, but it's supposed to have ribbon facing on the front bands and around the armholes. I bought some brown and cream with blue accents paisley ribbon at Joann, but it's not exactly what I had in mind--so I might just leave it off until I find the right one. I wanted something a little more earthy, and less of a contrast with the knitted part.

I do like the Cascade Ecological Wool, if only because it's so cheap. I bought five skeins of this stuff on sale at WEBS for $11 a huge skein of heavy worsted/bulky weight yarn (depending on who you ask), and so for $55 I have knit my husband a sweater, this cape, and still have enough left for a short sleeved cardigan for me. This color is a little hairy, but I have a lighter color that isn't quite as bad. From now on I think I will stick to the lighter colors.

Just for fun, here is one of my WIP's, the Delancey Cardigan designed by Alexis Winslow. Delancey is a one-armed lady at the moment...but I love knitting with Knit Picks Swish DK, so I don't even dread the sleeves. The other one will be coming right up! I'm using Beach Glass as the main color, and Pampas Heather as the contrast color. It's a little less punchy than the pattern model, but I was good and used stash yarn.

This is such a well-written pattern, and for once it's designed for taller-than-average girls with long arms! I actually knitted my sleeves SHORTER than the model. Never happened before! I really like the way it's written, with row numbers given in all instructions. It would be difficult to modify the length without completely re-writing the pattern, though, so keep that in mind if you're considering this one. This will hit me around the bottom of my rear, and I am 5'7" tall. Once I get the bottom trim knitted on, it will not have that "V" shape anymore.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Few Updates

Since I haven't taken knitting pictures in a while (still getting used to the new homeschooling schedule!) I thought this would be the perfect time to make a little list of things I've been wanting to blog about but haven't had the time for. Not the same as a real post, I know, but it will have to do. :)

1. The stash challenge has, quite honestly, been a complete bust. I really am an addict. I don't intend to stop trying to knit only yarn I already own, but among other purchases, last month's mad money was spent on a lot of Knit Picks Main Line (discontinued yarn) that was just too good a deal to pass up--a Raveler had it for sale for 19 skeins for $25--and a whole shipment of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes has come to live at my house. The latter was purchased for...

2. My first go at intarsia. More on this later, but I'm making a huge felted satchel for my mom. I've got the back, sides, bottom, and straps done (the solid-colored pieces) and will be starting on the colorwork soon.

3. I have been a little bit on the scattered side when it comes to my knitting lately. In the past week, I've worked on the Not-A-Poncho City Cape from Custom Knits, the Delancey Cardigan designed by Alexis Winslow, the aforementioned Weekend Getaway Satchel, and yes, I started yet another new project tonight: Sheer Poncho, an absolutely gorgeous laceweight free pattern by Amy Arifin.

I don't know why I keep starting new things--I suppose I would finish pieces more quickly if I stuck to one or two at a time, but I've decided to stop feeling bad about it and just go with it. It's fun! I'll be writing more about each of those projects as soon as I can...with pictures, I promise.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hooray for the Public Library!

A couple of weeks ago I took my kids to a library we hadn't visited before (who knew there were two different library systems in my county?!) and not only did we find lots of books for my girl, I found a great selection of up-to-date knitting books! I finally got to check out in person the book Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. Wow! It is so much more than a pattern book...lots of tips about fit and customizing your own sweaters. Even instructions for doing one of those duct tape dressmaker's forms. If you haven't looked at this book before, I'd really recommend it highly. The cape I am working on is from this book, the Not-a-Poncho City Cape.

Even though I'd like to buy the book eventually, isn't it just...COOL? That I can go to a big building full of books and they will just let me...BORROW...any book I want? And I can walk out with a bag full of 27 books without paying a single cent? It's like a throwback to a simpler time. No matter how the world has changed, the public library is still free. Amazing. This is going to be a lifesaver for my daughter's reading appetite, I can already tell. She is going through a little chapter book every two days or so. Today, it's The BFG.

Anyway, I am busy with the cape, and my daughter's first day of Kindergarten at home was last Monday--so while we're having a blast with school, my crafting time and blog reading time has been severely curtailed. I miss it, but it's for a good cause.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Slow Fashion

If you haven't already heard this term, "Slow Fashion," you will be hearing it soon...the slowed economy has caused many people's disposable income to dry up, and this has inevitably affected when and how people buy clothes. I first heard about slow fashion earlier this year when I started reading more sewing and knitting blogs in preparation for starting my own blog. There are so many women out there who are sewing their own wardrobes, refashioning thrift shop finds, knitting copies of expensive sweaters, creating their own beaded jewelry, and on and on. It's inspiring!

Zoe Wood (article link) writes: "'Slow fashion is not just about responding to trends,' says Adili chief executive Adam Smith. 'It is a mentality that involves thinking about provenance and buying something that won't look unfashionable after one season.'"

Many bloggers have also translated this concept into wearing things that are handmade, by themselves or someone else. The explosion of Etsy in the past couple of years is part of the slow fashion movement as well, I believe.

The concept of slow fashion fits well with my personal philosophy of consumption: we try to buy things that last, not necessarily the cheapest model of whatever doo-dad the house/car/kids require. BUT--we often buy used or scout around for a floor model or "scratch and dent" item. I've always said I have champagne taste on a beer budget, and this applies to my wardrobe as well. As much as I may drool over the clothes at Anthropologie or higher-end designer stores, the budget simply won't allow it. So, I've really made a commitment to avoiding "disposable" clothes--you know, the ones that fall apart after 5 washings and will look hopelessly dated in just a few months. As a bonus, making things myself enables me to know that they weren't made in sweatshops, and will (with a little skill and luck) fit perfectly.

The challenge for me, at least, is that I do want to look current and fashionable. I definitely don't want to be that weird hippie lady with the cloth-diapered, home schooled kids; a weird diet; and the frumpy clothes (because I already have three of those four). So, for now, participating in slow fashion means attempting to use the fabric and yarn in my closet--see, I'm sticking to my stash challenge!--to make clothes that somewhat re-create looks I see in catalogues and magazines.

I am making a knitted cape, I'm working on a 50's ish dress, and I've got several more ideas for things I want to make and wear this fall and winter. Shall I share the sewn things here, not just the knitted?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Finished: Watershed

I've been working on something different each night, so I'm at that point where there are tons of things in progress, but progress is so slow that nothing seems to be getting done. Well, one thing is done...I finished up Watershed, by Amy Swenson. This was a stash yarn project, and also it was a quick project to make me feel like I was finishing something in the middle of all the larger projects that I've got on the go. I really liked it, and in fact learned a few new things: I learned that the order in which yarnovers are done in relation to their paired decreases effects how the lace looks (one side of the front edging looks slightly different than the other), and I learned how to do knit-on trim.

This is really quite an ingenious pattern. First, it starts with a provisional cast on and the bottom lace is knit side-to-side, then the bottom front edging is knit onto each side to turn the corner. Then, stitches are picked up along the bottom trim and the main body of the piece is knit, including the front edging, up to the armholes. After splitting for the armholes and knitting the fronts and back separately, they are rejoined and there is raglan shaping, and then the front edging is continued up and knit onto the back stitches to form the collar; then a little trim on the armholes and it's done! Completely, totally seamless. I highly recommend the pattern--though if I were to do it over, I might modify the lace pattern a bit to make it symmetrical. The only modification I made this time around is to add one lace repeat to the body for a tiny bit of extra length.

I used the Cascade 220 Heathers in Alki Beach I had left over from my Creature Comforts Cardi. I'm regretting that choice now because the other color of Cascade 220 I had in my stash was my first choice, but I wasn't sure I had enough--I would have. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Oh well, maybe I will have to make another one! It's a very wearable style in the Southern California fall weather. I still have some Alki Beach left, too. Maybe some mitts?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Finished: Que Sera (Sera!)

This was an aptly-titled project--whatever will be, will be! I started this cardigan with the intention of keeping it for myself, because let's face it, most of the things I make are for me. (Side note--I'm not ashamed to admit that at all!) But as in life, things don't always work out as we plan.

Pattern: Que Sera by Kirsten Kapur, size XS with shorter sleeves.
Yarn: 8 skeins Knit Picks Main Line (discontinued), 75% Pima Cotton, 25% Merino Wool, in Ivory
Buttons: Vintage brass dress buttons from Vintage Necessities on Etsy.

Because I'm knitting from stash, when I fall in love with a pattern I have to rummage around and see what I've got that might work. In this case, I had two quantities of cotton-blend yarn: one lot of Knit Picks Main Line in Ivory with enough yardage to make the XS size with truncated sleeves, and one lot of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in Robin's Egg Blue with enough to make my size if I also made short sleeves. The Main Line was so much softer (seriously, I don't know why they discontinued this's wonderful!), and I started to imagine wearing the sweater in cream color, so I did some calculating and went with it.

Since it's a thicker yarn than called for (aran vs. worsted), I used a size larger needle, and made the XS size. I fully admit this might have been an ill-advised choice from the start. The bust measurement for the XS in the schematic is 31.5". Ahem. Not my size. But I started with the sleeves as a kind of a swatch and it seemed to be working out to be something approaching my size. Once I got a fair bit completed on the body, however, I realized that the lace pattern pulls in much more than I had bargained for, and started to make peace with the fact that this cardigan was not meant to be mine. Once it was complete, it was not quite an XS, but there were about 4 inches between the front edges when I tried it on. Bummer. No picture of my humiliation, sorry.

Then, it really started to be kismet. My very dear (and tiny!) friend got an AMAZING job and is re-entering the workforce part-time after taking a break for children for the past five years. I realized this sweater was meant to be hers. It's my "Congratulations and I'm SO Proud of You!" gift. It was actually finished a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to surprise her so I sat on this post for a while--then I caved and told her about it on the phone the day before our big outing (to an awesome show and dinner for her job!). But oh well: she loves it, and of course I forgot to take a picture of her in it, so here it is anyway.

PS: The robin's egg blue Cotton Fleece I mentioned? It's going to be a Que Sera for me! Stay tuned. :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Finished: Butterfly Shrug

So, my dear little five-year-old daughter has been in love with my Creature Comforts Cardi since she saw me making it, and asked--no, begged!--for one of her own. But, you know, pink and with butterflies. And in her size of course. Happily, I had just under three skeins of Knit Picks Swish DK in Petal left over from her little girl Bella Mittens [Ravelry project page link], so I measured her and found a beautiful butterfly cable motif in one of my new knitting reference books and made this for her:

Other than the size and cable motif, I also modified the collar a bit--you can hardly see it in the photos because her hair covers it, but I did a little bitty shawl collar. I think if I were to do it over again, I would make the shawl collar a little bigger, but it's still cute as-is.

I take it back.

There will be no Zick Zack Tunic for me in the near future. I know I said I would finish it, but I am realizing that there is a very good reason it's been sitting for over a's not fun for me to knit. The yarn is very skinny and slippery and dark-colored, the needles are Knit Picks Harmony (dark wood, which a dark purple yarn gets lost in), and it grows very slowly. I have picked it up twice since I said I would, but it's just not enjoyable. This is a hobby, not work, right? I have so many fun new patterns that I want to do (Delancy Cardigan, anyone??) that it's just not making me happy to sit there working on something I am not excited about. At least I have finished a few other things (pictures coming soon!) so I don't feel spread TOO thin among all of my works-in-progress.

Now my only dilemma is to frog, or to let it sit a while longer and see if I ever feel like getting back to it. I was thinking maybe, when I come back to it, to change the needle tips to nickel and see if that helped me see the stitches better (love those interchangable needles!).

Knitters, how do you decide when to give up on a project?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Forehead, meet palm.

Take a look at this lace chart key, and then I have a question for you.

/ = K2tog, knit 2 stitches together

\ =ssk, slip 2 stitches together and knit them together through the back of the loops

0 = YO, yarn over

^ = Sl2 K1, psso, slip two sts as for ssk, k1, pass the slipped stitches over the k1

If you were knitting along on the set-up row for a brand new pretty cardigan, and saw the ^ symbol on the chart, would you:

a. slip two sts as for ssk, k1, pass the slipped stitches over the k1 and move on.

b. Sl2 K1, psso and move on. (Ha! Trick question already!)

c. *Sl2 K1, psso, then slip two additional sts as for ssk, k1, pass the slipped stitches over the k1, then tear your hair out over why you can't make the lace repeat add up to the required number of stitches; rip out the set up row; do the EXACT SAME THING again and wonder yet again why the stitch count isn't adding up. Rip out again and try making all six of the stitches you've been working with turn into one stitch at the end of the process so it matches the chart.* Repeat from * to * twice. Start dinner about 30 minutes late and be an extreme grouch to your entire family all evening while you wait for kind Ravelers and the very nice designer to respond to your questions about the pattern. Realize right before bedtime that you're an idiot and fix the set up row sheepishly.

Guess which one I did?

PS. On a related note, I have cast on for Pinnet by Amy Christoffers (or Pinnate, if you believe the pattern itself over its Ravelry page) in Queensland Collection Bamboo Cotton. I got it the day I decided not to buy any more yarn for a good long while, at Tuesday Morning. (I guess you could say it was my last hurrah.) It's really silky and soft. Pattern photo below...

PS #2. Things are going very well on my finishing crusade! I will have some pretties to share very soon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In search of my own garden.

Over the past months I've been emerging from a fog. A fog of depression, and health problems, and the knowledge that I had lost something of myself in motherhood. Children are only very small for such a short time, and the sacrifices we make in that time are worth every unwashed, exhausting day. But a part of me was lost.

I have never had any illusions about my talents. I am usually good at things, but not great. I hang out with the artists, musicians, and writers, but I am not one of them. I can appreciate and understand their craft but I don't have the discipline or drive to join them with anything but dabbles...I can play the piano, draw, write, knit, sew, and paint, but not well enough or with enough originality that anyone would notice or seek out my work.

Something hit me the other day, though. It's fear of failure that keeps me from working at any of these talents. I have been content with the knowledge that I could be good at these things, if I really wanted to--but if I didn't try I couldn't fail. Knitting has been my gateway drug, in a way. I have given so many hours to it, and I have begun to read the blogs of other women who have drawn me in through their knitting but have begun to inspire me to pick up my forgotten creativity (Daisy, I am talking to you, among others!).

Through laziness, through motherhood, through exhaustion, I had given up on myself. I have always privately described myself as a frustrated artist, and blamed the frustration on any number of circumstances or decisions. But then I decided to stop blaming and start doing something about it. I bought some charcoal and graphite and a sketchbook. I picked up the books that had once inspired me, and found myself reading In Search of Our Mother's Gardens by Alice Walker with tears streaming down my face one late night. A few passages especially stood out:

"What is always needed in the appreciation of art, or life, is the larger perspective. Connections made, or at least attempted, where none existed before, the straining to encompass in one's glance at the varied world the common thread, the unifying theme through immense diversity, a fearlessness of growth, of search, of looking, that enlarges the private and the public world. And yet, in our particular society, it is the narrowed and narrowing view of life that often wins." (from "Saving the Life That is Your Own" by Alice Walker in 1976).

A poem she included at the end of a college convocation address was deeply moving to me as a young college student; it drove me to find out who the Rilke she referenced was...and I found Rainer Maria Rilke, whose poems and letters have inspired me greatly over the years. But the original Alice Walker poem spoke to me again as I rediscovered it a few weeks ago:


I must love the questions
as Rilke said
like locked rooms
full of treasure
to which my blind
and groping key
does not yet fit.

and await the answers
as unsealed
mailed with dubious intent
and written in a very foreign

and in the hourly making
of myself
no thought of Time
to force, to squeeze
the space
I grow into.

I still have no illusions about where this will end fame or fortune to be had for me. But I do have a daughter. And I want her to see her mother, not as a frustrated artist, but as a woman of creativity, passion, and drive. I want her to find my books, my drawings, my photographs, my knitted sweaters. I want her to hear my music. I want her to find her own creativity and possibly, somehow, not be frustrated--but be inspired by me to that fearlessness of growth that Walker described. I must lead by example, and "hourly make myself" into the person I want to be.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Long Lost WIP's

I was tinkering around with my Ravelry notebook tonight and was astounded to discover that several of the WIP's I keep in Ziploc bags in various places around the house have been in their current condition for OVER A YEAR. This must be remedied. So, I am resurrecting the following projects...and I hope to finish them before my seasonal editing job cranks up in September. Think I can do it? (I am not so sure, but if I can it will clear my brain circuits a little--WIP's clog my thoughts. Really.) Here are the contenders.

Featherweight Cardigan (designed by Hannah Fettig), cast on July 3, 2009. Plain stockinette got boring, but now I like having a simple knitting project on the go for the TV watching nights. This is Purewool Merino Lace in a semisolid colorway called Grass. I worked on this tonight, and I've already doubled what you see in the picture!

Zick Zack Tunic (designed by Melissa Wehrle), cast on June 5, 2009. See my hot pink lifeline? I am not sure why I became disillusioned with this one. It's really a nice design. Oh...I remember. I think I chose a size that was going to end up being too small for me. Good thing I am done nursing now, and it will fit (better)! I am knitting this in Knit Picks Gloss Lace, a silk/merino blend, in a beautiful purple called Pinot.

Looks like my hands will be busy, because I am also doing a knit-along with the Anthropologie Knits group on Ravelry. I have been looking for an excuse to knit Que Sera (designed by Kirsten Kapur) since I saw the pattern, and the KAL theme is Short Sleeved Summer Cardigans. I'm using Knit Picks Main Line (Pima cotton/wool blend) in Ivory, and I've modified the sleeve length to just past the elbows rather than full length--both to make it a lighter sweater, and avoid running out of yarn (the yarn is discontinued and it would be difficult to get more). I've got both sleeves and about 3 inches of the body done on this one.

Three very different summery wardrobe will thank me for this burst of knitting responsibility!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finished and Christened: The Country Club Cardigan!

I stayed up waaaay past my bedtime on Sunday night to finish the last two rows and the i-cord bind-off, and thus finish the knitting part of my drapy cotton cardigan. Then, yesterday during the kids' nap time, I wove in all the ends, crossed my fingers, and threw it in the washing machine. It doesn't matter how many commercial knits I have washed and dried over the years, I still don't trust it completely with my handknits! Washing this one caused special nailbiting since it was too large to fit in any of my mesh bags. It turned out to be fine, though--and the fabric was even improved.

Before I reveal the final product, however, I want to share a few more things I learned from the project.

1. On the edge of a fabric, M1 increases will cause the edge to roll a lot more than kfab increases will. The rolling doesn't really bother me on this sweater, but I am filing that little tidbit away for future use. Exhibit A, showing the wrong side of the front edge of the cardi (the hem is at the foreground of the photo):

2. On a very long edge, a skinny i-cord edging will not stop the stockinette roll around the bottom of a piece--but a nice hot steamy iron will (provided it's a plant fiber, of course)! Exhibit B, the "after ironing" shot of the hem:

3. Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport yarn shrinks. A lot. I knew it would--my swatch lost between 10 and 12 percent of the length--but it still surprised me. Why, I don't know...I must have been in denial. Haha. The length from underarm to hem, prewashing/drying, was nearly 20 inches. After? Right about 17 inches. But on the plus side, the yarn also becomes incredibly soft after a trip through the washer and dryer, so overall I think I am in love with this yarn.

4. I don't know why my short rows (which I used to add length to the fronts of the cardigan) look so much worse when I close the holes on the right side than when I do it on the wrong side. Can anyone tell me what my problem is? Exhibit C, short rows with holes closed on the knit side--ugh!:

Exhibit D, short rows with holes closed on the purl side--yay!:

Anyway, this has been quite the learning experience and I feel like I need a drumroll here, or it is! My "Country Club Cardigan," so named because it reminds me of something someone much wealthier than I am might wear as a swimsuit coverup while lounging by the pool and wearing a large-brimmed hat, high wedge sandals, and sunglasses. I'll be wearing it to the grocery store, over my jeans, and with a toddler on my hip!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's all in the details.

I am still going strong on my reverse engineering of the Allegoro Drape Front Cardigan. The miles of stockinette, instead of being boring as I might have feared, are a great canvas for trying out different increases and thinking about how the placement of shaping will effect the finished garment. Since this is my first go at doing a sweater without a written pattern, I have given in to what a favorite professor called "the paralysis of analysis" more than a few times, but overall I am pleased with how it's progressing!

On the raglan increases for a top-down sweater like this, I learned I prefer slower increases, as they are most invisible. (Those increases are shown at the top of the next photo.) I will have to play with the cast on number next time, though, because if I kept going at that rate I would have had armholes halfway down my biceps. My second favorite kind of raglan increases are [M1b, k2, M1f], done every right side row (shown at the bottom of the next photo). I like the way the center stitches raise neatly and the increases recede. I didn't like the middle section of increases I did, which were [M1f, K2, M1b], at all--I thought it looked very messy.

This project has also given me a new obsession: i-cord, both applied i-cord and as a bind off. It looks so nice and neat at the end of a stockinette swath, and as a bonus, it stops the curling that makes my perfectionistic soul cringe. I was also worried that the wide-ish neckline would stretch and refuse to stay on my shoulders if I didn't do something to stabilize it.

The neckline before picking up and knitting a few rows then doing a 2 stitch i-cord bind off:

Neckline after:

It's subtle, I admit, but less so in real life. I will be doing a matching 2 stitch i-cord bind off on the bottom of the sweater as well. I used a 3 stitch i-cord bind off on the sleeve, which is nice, but a little more obvious and I thought it might look a bit too heavy on the drapy parts.

The last few inches of this project will take a long time, I am afraid. The body length is nearing the bottom of my rear end, and the rows are upwards of 300 stitches at this point! I just broke into my seventh skein, and I am estimating that it will take about 8 1/2 total to finish the project--so that gives a rough idea of how close to finishing I am (the next picture was taken about 2 inches ago)! I can't wait to wear this.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aloha! (Hello, I mean)

I'm back from vacation, and I got some good knitting done on my copy of the Allegoro Drape Front Cardigan (a sleeve and a half, plus some more of the body)...but here is a little taste of our trip to Maui for now!

The view from my lounge chair:

The view from our lanai:

Just one of the thousands of tropical flowers we saw:

A humuhumunukunuku'apua'a (trigger fish) daughter saw tons of these at Kaanapali Beach through her bodyboard's snorkle window:

Ready to "hike" the Iao Valley:

The Iao Needle (I was SO bummed--I didn't bring my wide angle lens on this hike and all I had was a zoom, so this was the best picture I could get of the needle from the top of the hill):