Monday, February 27

Surprise!

Who doesn't love surprises? This is the coolest sweater. It reminds me of a sweater I had in high school and college. I got it for something like $2 at the thrift store, and I called it, variously, my "Ugly Sweater" or my "Librarian Sweater." Because, well, it was kind of ugly and looked like something a librarian from the 70s would have worn with her dismal, tweed skirt, sensible shoes, face-pulling bun, and sour expression. But it was ugly in that cool way, you know, by which I mean the way in which kids who try to be different and unique because they are a little bit out there (or think they are) think that ugly is the new cool? I think this is a phenomenon that spans space and time. Anyway, that sweater was super cozy, if an aesthetic eyesore. And this sweater reminds me of it, except 10 times better.

Thursday, February 16

As if I need more projects, part II


But, you see, I had all this lovely yarn. Just sitting around my house. Stacked and lonely. (Not stacked, like, you know, in need of a bra or anything but just, well, look at the picture.) Anyway, this delicious Hand Dyed "Pot Luck" Yarn from Persimmon Tree Farm was another of my Rheinbeck spoils. For some reason, I decided I needed to knit a shawl. You know, the impulse came over me hard and fast that one week in October, and so I came home from Fiberdise with, among other things, a whole mess of this gorgeous wool/mohair blend. With which to make a shawl. Because I need one, or something.

As with most of my compulsive knitting brainstorms, this one was quickly placed on the backburner. Halfheartedly and intermittently, I tried to find an appropriate pattern. Until about a week ago, when suddenly the impulse was back and rarin'. Thanks to this. And thus, a shawl was born.
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With the help of a luscious hank of rosy Malabrigo and my brand new Needlemasters (which, incidentally, are fantastic*) I cast on. It has become my A.D.D. corrective. I work on it a little when another project is getting me down. Or boring me momentarily. You know, like say, hypothetically, my Somewhat Cowl.


Speaking of the devil...

So I managed to forge ahead, thanks in part to Wendy's encouragement. I got to the end of the sleeve seam. I joined under the arms. I got to the bottom of the neck and joined in the round. (Yay!) Everything was going smoothly, I was knitting and getting into the groove. And then I decided to try her on.

100_0392 100_0393

Wowch. Excuse me, huge, baggy gappiness? Um, I don't remember inviting you. Yeah, I'm pretty sure you're not on the list.

I have to say, I don't really get it. My gauge is spot-on. I followed the pattern pretty precisely, even erring on the side of doing fewer increases and cutting back on the neck length slightly. And, when I did the math, based on my stitch count and gauge, my bust circumference should have meant that I was knitting with negative ease. So where is all this extra fabric coming from? I have read on other blogs that, for those of us with curvier figures, a bit of waist-shaping might be in order. That's an understatement. In the end, I decided to rip back to the end of the sleeve-seam rows, and start fitting in some decreases sooner, so that by the time we, um, get past the hump (Apologies, all around, for that one), I still look like I'm wearing a fitted sweater and not a potato sack. (Not that potato sacks don't have the potential to be totally hot.)




*"Oh pointy needles
Oh pointy, pointy
Annoint my head
Annointy, 'nointy."

If you can name the quote, get yourself a cookie.

Wednesday, February 15

As if I need more project ideas


bobbleblue

I am in love.

I am in love with this sweater like I've rarely been in love with an item of knitwear before. OK, so while that may not be technically true, this particular sweater carries with it an extra punch, an eleventh-hour, Hail-Mary that is fairly unique in the history of my knitting project-lust.

Vignette: When I first started knitting, I remember an afternoon spent curled up in the corner of a bookstore, paging through every knitting book on their shelves. I drank it all up thirstily: the techniques, the patterns, the stitches. I was amazed and giddy at this whole world of wardrobe possibility that had opened up before me. (Because, and I feel a little bit like I'm divulging a dirty little secret, when all is said and done, I'm in this knitting thing for the clothes. It's not that I don't love the process, or that I don't get that little thrill when I'm working on particularly clever patterns, or that indescribable satisfaction that comes from mastering new and difficult techniques. I do. But it's the fashion that really makes my heart stop most often. I'm a clothes horse.) And as I sat there, cross-legged on the bookshop floor, the vision of a sweater floated into my imagination, a sweater the texture, details, and shape of which I would one day be good enough to design and knit.

A sweater that looked almost exactly like this little Bobble Blue number from Interweave.

What is it, exactly, about this sweater? I think it's that it combines two of my favorite sartorial themes. It packs a lovely and subtly sexy vintage silhouette with a whole French gamine-sort of feel. It's a sweater that I could totally picture Amelie Poulain wearing as she traipsed through the hidden, cobblestoned byways of Paris. In my mind, there is no sweater better suited to sitting at a little wrought-iron table outside a cafe, sipping a melange. (And in my mind, there are few better ways to pass the time than sitting outside a cafe, sipping a melange. A clothes-horse of simple pleasures.)


While we're on the subject:

trellisscarf

I think I will also make this scarf. Unlike the sweater, I couldn't say why this ethereal bit of lace struck a chord with me. Undoubtedly, it's gorgeous, but whisper-weight lace has never really been my thing. (As a sidenote, I think it's so interesting to try to dissect the appeal of knitting projects. Some are no-brainers, while others draw you in and you're not sure why. Some strike you immediately as horrible and then, a week later, you find yourself wanting to knit them. Others have that whole choir of angels, backlit glow going on when you first stumble across them, but then, in a month, you can't really remember what was so great about that project in the first place.)

Anyway, I actually have some Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud in my stash, and out of the blue I'm jonesin' to try my hand at lace. Real lace, you know, with fine yarn and tiny needles, not just a couple of yarnovers and fancy decreases in worsted weight. Something worthy of blocking wires.

Wednesday, February 8

The land of sloooooow stockinette


100_0366

Q: What's more boring than an uneventful progress shot?
A: The experience of progressing on my Somewhat Cowl.

So, Somehwat Cowl. You are a wily one. So fetching, so fascinating, so alluring, with your promises of hourglass figures and stunning decolletage. (Oh, was that just me? Sometimes I really live in a dreamworld of knitted garments, where they have magical powers to make me thinner, more beautiful, more confident, and all-around more fun to be with.) Boy, I cannot wait to wear this sweater (Who could, with all of the surefire hope-dashers I'm imputing to it. It's just a sweater, I must repeat to myself. But it's so much more than a mere sweater, my self contradicts.)

As you can see, however, it is a long, long road to the magical burb of "Wearing This Sweater." Ville. (Mayor: me). I love the yarn (Gems Opal Merino in Fern): it's very soft and the color is wonderfully saturated, exactly the spunky, grassy green I had in mind. (It's great, too, because it's very different from my usual purple/pink/teal color preferences.) And when the sweater is done, I can experience unlimited fabulousness in it, because I can throw the thing in the washer and wear it again and again. (You know, I have heard about this handwashing thing, but I have also been known to let handwash-only items languish in corners for months while they await their gentle bath.)

I also love the pattern, which is well-written and straightforward. It's a good TV knit. But I can't stand the back and forth and back and forth and back and forth of these never-ending stockinette stitch rows. At 24 sts per inch. I thought that in my year and a half of knitting I had worked myself up to a respectable clip, but this project makes me feel like the world's slowest knitter. (Although, after googling that particular phrase, I realize I am not so special.) Actually, it's the "forth" part of the equation that really gets me down; my purls are the tortoise of this story. Part of the problem is that I've been playing around with my method of tensioning the yarn (I knit continental), but I can't seem to settle on something that really works for me.

What's even more tragic is that I'm so close to joining under the sleeves that I can almost taste it. You see, I had actually been chuggin' along on this sweater, in that I worked on it for a little bit every evening consistently (an hour of TV would get my about four or five rows). And then it was every other evening. Then every three evenings. And now, I haven't touched it for a week. I got really bummed out when I thought I was to the fabled end of seam and then measured and realized I still had at least an inch and a half to go. It killed my spirit.

Maybe I just need a drink. Though probably not while trying to knit this thing. Nothing would kill this little knitter's spirit faster than having to rip out the loooooong rows due to a tipsy mishap.

Sunday, February 5

Quickies

One great thing about winter knitting is that it is potentially very quick. Lightning quick. Hats, scarves, mittens...if you're not doing something too fancy or knitting them for your friend who suffers from gigantism (suffer being, of course, a relative term. I can imagine how much more colorful life could be with enormous extremities. I mean, I'm 6'1" and the only real "suffering" I've ever had to put up with involves pants that aren't long enough and schoolyard meanies whose cleverest taunt was "Jolly Green Giant." Ho, ho, ho.), they can be done in a snap.

Exhibit A: a lovely hat that was completed in about one hour. And then completely ripped out because it turned out too big and completed for real in a second hour.
100_0344
Pattern: this one (the knitted version)
Yarn: Less than one ball of Rowan Big Wool
Needles: I really have to keep better track of these things. US 15s or 17s?
The only pattern notes of note were that I added 2 sts to the cast-on number, and did fewer repeats before the decreases began. I used the flower pattern from that flowered headband in Stitch 'n Bitch Nation.


Exhibit B: These are some simple simple hand warmers from one of those Rowan Classic Books. (Most informative blogger in the world, right here, folks.)
100_0348
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky (I'll have words about this in a moment)
Pattern: As I said...
Needles: Addi US 11; this was my first magic-looping. I figured I'd give it a go. And I love it.
This pattern, as I mentioned, was quite simple. They practically knit themselves. I lengthened the 2x2 rib on the cuff, and I did more 2x2 rib at the top instead of the garter stitch band called for in the pattern.

Now, as for the yarn... (get ready for my stern voice) This yarn, though very soft and cushy, is the most disastrous fiber I've ever worked with. Who are you people who love Cashmerino in its many guises? How can you stand it? What am I missing? It started to pill and look worn and tired before I had even bound off. You can sort of see in the above picture how pathetic and decroded these things look (less than a month old!), but here are some close-ups.
Exhibit B 1.1 (the thumb join):
100_0349

Exhibit B 1.2:
100_0351
They're stll comfy and cozy, but I'll only wear them around the house or when I need the perfect accessory to pull together my latest Derelicte wannabe ensemble. And I'm no Derek Zoolander. I don't have the requisite looks to pull off Derelicte.


Exhibit C:
This is the scarf I made for my husband.
100_0365
Yarn: Morehouse Merino (dreamy to work with)
Pattern: Basically my own, but its just a 5-stitch basketweave.
100_0358
I think I cast on 3o sts and just knit and knit until it was taller than me (my guy like his scarves like he like his women).
Needles: Addi US 8
Totally quick and totally painless. Again, this scarf practically knit itself. I didn't really need to block it; I just washed it in some Kookaburra (my new favorite wool wash; take that Eucalan), where it did bleed a bit, and then I spread it out flat to dry. Oh, but in between, I did take advantage of my new favorite blocking maneuver:
100_0334
Yep, I salad-spun it. It's miraculous for wringing out all the excess water.

Wednesday, February 1

New inspirations

As I'm sure you all know, there has recently exploded in knit-blog land a rash of fair-isle knitting fever. Not that I'm accusing any of these lovely knitters of being sheep or anything. Seriously. (Besides, can you really accuse anyone of jumping on a centuries-old bandwagon?) Mostly, I just think it's slightly strange and incredibly cool how a huge network of knitters, many known to each other only through the magic that is the internets, can influence and inspire and encourage and teach each other. But enough on that front. You all don't need any convincing about knit-blogging, I presume...

So anyway, fair-isle. Well, thanks to Eunny's excellent recent series on steeks and fair isle, as well as her pattern-writing genius, I will soon be knitting this:
vest
Or attempting to. Many knitters are scared at the thought of slicing up their knitted works, but I have to admit I find the prospect strangely thrilling. (I always loved making those fold-and-cut snowflakes back in elementary school, too.) Plus, steeking and fair-isling will be a new skill for me (not counting that pitiful little penguin experiment I did once), and I love learning new things about knitting.

Not to mention that this is just one hell of a sexy vest.