Friday, March 28, 2008

it's always a good day for a new scarf

At least one immediate good thing came out of digging through all those old, unfinished projects: this one was actually finished! Two little ends to weave in and a good blocking, and I have a new scarf. I think I made this in August or September of 2005, intending to add beads to the ends and give it as a thank you gift. That occasion is long past, however, so I decided to wear it myself.

This is a basic razor shell lace pattern similar to the one found here. I found the pattern I originally used via Craftster. It was from another blog that seems to have disappeared, and was based on a pattern originally published in Marie-Claire Idées. (I have a nearly photographic memory, in case you are wondering how I know this two and a half years later.) I did only three repeats of the lace pattern and used two balls of Noro Silk Garden on size 7 needles - my favorite pair of Brittany straights, which is why I remember. I knitted the scarf in two pieces and joined it with a three needle bind off at the middle. I made another one of these that same month for my mother-in-law's birthday, and I grafted that one, which didn't turn out so well. Kitchener stitch and I do not get along. I've been wearing this scarf all day today, and the bind off hasn't been bothersome in the least.

I remember buying some teardrop-shaped mother-of-pearl beads to attach to the scarf's points, but I have no idea where those are. I think they would bother me anyway. I'm very happy with this scarf just as it is, and especially today. We've had completely unseasonal snow flurries all day today. I know in some places snow in March is fairly normal, but for us this is just so strange. I live at sea level, less than half a mile from the water's edge, in the Pacific Northwest. The daffodils have been in full bloom for two weeks, the plum trees are done, the cherry trees are blooming - it is spring! It's so unnerving to look out the window and see the air full of heavy white flakes. I wish I'd taken a picture, but Sam caught a photo of the action down south. Crazy, I tell you. At least I've got a new scarf to keep me warm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

spring cleaning, part two

Perhaps my last post was misleading. You didn't really think I only had four UFO's, did you? I think I can lay claim to every knitting disorder there is - KADD, startitis, cast on-itis, second sock syndrome...what am I missing? This makes for quite a few projects in various states of (in)completion hiding in each of my several small stash areas. Here are more of them.

These are all somewhat recent projects (at least compared to the photo coming up next). We've got two socks that do not make a pair and a scarf. Nothing wrong with either of the socks, really. They're just boring. The scarf was my interpretation of the Habu Kusha Kusha scarf, but with laceweight mohair (more mohair! and all the same brand!) rather than merino. It seemed like a good idea, but these two yarns, Habu silk stainless and Fonty Kidopale, are not made for one another. At least not at this gauge. The mohair hides the crunchy texture and structure of the silk stainless, which in turn weighs down the mohair's floatiness, so the best qualities of each yarn are negated and the whole thing is just meh. But next to impossible to frog.

This next picture is even more frightening.

Here we have two scarves, completed and bound off, but unblocked and with ends unwoven. Both have been buried in the stash for at least two years. Actually, I think one of them dates from my very early knitting days when I was still pregnant - I can remember knitting three Silk Garden scarves that summer and early fall. There is also a baby sweater and pair of booties that just need seaming. They were started before my cousin's son was born, meant as a gift. The little guy turns two this week.

Here's one of the scarves, in Artyarns Supermerino:

I used an overlapping waves lace pattern from one of my stitch dictionaries, but I don't know which one. I didn't (and still don't) like how the yarn pooled. I hadn't figured out the simple technique of working from two balls at once and carrying the unused yarn up the side of the work, so I would occasionally cut the yarn and start knitting from the other ball, so there are an absurd number of ends. The pattern and yarn together don't make a good scarf, although there is nothing wrong with either separately. No matter how well I block this, it is going to curl. I'm going to frog this, and maybe knit some socks. We'll see how many little balls of yarn I end up with from this.

So you see, there are seven more UFO's here. Add that to the four from my last post and the three that I am actively working on, and that makes 13. Plus I know there is one more baby sweater somewhere - I was working on it while I was in labor and never finished it. I just can't find it. So, 14 UFO's that I know of. There may be more lurking.

Friday, March 21, 2008

spring cleaning

Spring surprised me this year. Until late yesterday afternoon I assumed that the equinox was today. Maybe it's because I still have my Ecological Calendar from last year up on my office wall, and last year's Spring Equinox fell on March 21. Anyway, to welcome a chilly and drizzly spring, I thought I'd air out the UFO's. (If you know me in person, you didn't think I was actually cleaning, did you?)

This is one of several sweaters that was supposed to be My First Sweater, which I began last January. Obviously, this is only half a sweater. Less than half a sweater - it would need cap sleeves and a cowl neck in addition to a front to match this back. What this sweater piece really is is a poor combination of pattern and yarn. The yarn is lovely - Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk in deep marine blue. The pattern is from last Spring's Rebecca magazine (on Ravelry here). The pattern is cute enough, but was written for a cotton blend yarn. I thought in alpaca it would be cute layered over a black top and skinny jeans. I made it longer and added some ill-executed waist shaping. I didn't count on the weight and sag drape of the alpaca though, and it appears that this thing would end up nearly at my knees. The tunic/skinny jean trend can't have that much life left in it, so as cute as the idea is, I wouldn't be able to wear it past next fall. I think the lovely yarn deserves much better than this. Rip!

The other former candidate for My First Sweater is right here:

This one just needs seamed up and the crochet edging added. The only thing keeping me from finishing is pure laziness. Well, that and the sinking feeling that it was another poor yarn choice. This is a sweater from Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2005, and I can't find a photo online. I looked through all my old issues of VK recently and I still, three years later, love the photo of this top. The original is in 100% silk, and I used 100% mercerized cotton. The fabric feels dense, doesn't have enough drape, and slants in one direction due to the yarn construction. I am so close I really should finish it and see how it looks. Here is a finished one, without sleeves, using the same yarn. The fit is different than in the pattern photo, but it still looks good. I guess I need to work on my laziness.

Next we have mohair.

There is no reason not to finish this scribble lace scarf. It just lost its shiny factor and got stuck in the bottom of the WIP basket. The same goes for poor Kiri, who is actually about twice this size now:

I think I worked on Kiri last month a bit, so I haven't officially moved her into hibernation or UFO status. I do really want to finish her. I am just so easily distracted by new projects. I've realized, since being on Ravelry, that I am much more project-motivated than yarn-motivated. I hardly go into the yarn tab at all, but I stalk the pattern browser for new additions every day. When I find something I'd like to make, I'll spend time researching the perfect yarn for the project, but almost never vice versa. I usually buy yarn with a purpose in mind, although sometimes it sits in the stash for so long that the original purpose loses its appeal and I have to search for a new purpose. Maybe I'm strange, but project planning like this, even if I never actually knit the project, is a lot of fun for me. I think that's why I so enjoy doing the Sweater of the Week and Shawl of the Week for Lime & Violet's Daily Chum.

I have several other partly finished knits around the house, and lots of stash that should be sorted through and organized. I think my spring cleaning goal will be to get my art and craft chaos organized better and set up in a usable space. Hopefully I'll be able to update on how well that goes.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

knitting and going nowhere

Do you ever have projects where it seems like no matter how long you knit the piece just always looks the same? Me too. Unfortunately all of my current projects fit this description, which might make for some boring knit blogging for a bit. I'll try to mix things up a little in the interim and not make you look at seemingly identical photos over the next few weeks. Anyhow, here's what's going on.

Yes! A gray tube! One of the more exciting photos out there, I know. This is the beginning of Snow White, and it's probably going to look just about like this for a few days. Or so. Not only am I going nowhere as I knit this, I went backwards last night. Or I guess spent time treading water. As I was working through the waist decreases, I had the feeling that the tube was getting too narrow. I am not a curvy person. I am quite thin, but do not have a defined waist. So I looked at the schematic, and for the size I was knitting (my correct bust size) I saw a finished waist measurement that was far too small. Like three inches of negative ease too small. It seems to me that negative ease is good in the bust area but not so good around the middle - most of the time you don't want to look or feel like you are being squeezed into a corset. I think (and I went through all of this in my head last night as part of my decision making) a sweater looks better when it can show off the good bits and drape nicely over the not-so-good ones. So after some complicated and erroneous knit math, I decided to eliminate two of the four sets of decreases to come out with, I thought, zero ease at the waistline rather than negative ease. This threw off the stitch count for placing the markers for subsequent shaping. I got that figured out, and realized it also threw off the lovely lines of the ribbing. I decided I could live with it. I thought I could figure out what to do about all the problems this might cause as they came up and it would all be fine. Then I figured out that my complicated math was wrong. Decided the best thing would be to knit a size medium for the lower body and a size small for the upper. Which makes no sense because if anything, my body shape is the opposite of that configuration. Oh well I thought, whatever I need to do to make this work, which meant frog everything and start over from the beginning. I took a deep breath, ripped the needle out of the work and got ready to start pulling out all those stitches. Then I thought, hmm, I should maybe try it on. Oh. It's fine! It's perfectly fine, it fits, and there is plenty of room to keep going with the decreases as written. Either my gauge is off in my favor or the schematic is misleading...but it's totally fine. So then I had to pick up all 104 stitches and put them back on the needle, which required a crochet hook and patience, as the Cashsoft is slippery. All that time and effort and I went absolutely nowhere.

A note to myself for future reference - TRUST YSOLDA. Just follow her very detailed, thorough instructions and you will be fine. Apparently she knows what size I am, even if I don't. Gretel was fine. Snow White will be fine. And that's great, because her newest sweater, Coraline, is another must knit for me. I'm thinking Pure Alpaca Fina. The only question left is what color.

My other main project is the Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery from Spring 2008 Knitty. The day Knitty came out last week was very, very bad - one of those days where I should have taken the first of many hints and just stayed in bed in order to avoid chaos and disaster. Ugh. I cast on this scarf late that night with some alpaca from the stash in an attempt to have one redeeming thing about the day. After a few inches I decided I didn't like how the yarn was knitting up. I really wanted a light spring and summer scarf in a pale color, and fuzzy charcoal alpaca, even though fingering weight, wasn't going to cut it. So on Sunday I officially broke the yarn fast five days early and bought four balls of Naturally Dawn 2 ply, which is a 50% wool 50% silk "lace" yarn. This is what is so confusing about yarn. This stuff has four plies, not two. And it's much heavier than any laceweight I've ever come across. I'd call it a light fingering weight. Oh well. The point is that it feels wonderful and it's exactly what I had in mind for this scarf.

Scarves, you know, just go on in a straight line until they are long enough. So, it will look pretty much like that for quite awhile. That's ok. The lace pattern was very easily memorized, the yarn is pleasurable to work with, and the project overall is perfect for getting in a row here and a row there while I wait for whatever.

The sock beginning that I shared last time is in need of frogging and starting over on larger needles. I'll just have to take a few stitches out to make it the right size. Another project going nowhere. At least I am consistent.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the small project

I am definitely a multi-tasker when it comes to knitting. For every big project I have on the needles, I also have one or two small ones at any given time. Small projects are great for stash busting and for taking breaks from larger projects that can sometimes seem endless. Here are some of the recent small objects coming from my needles.

I mentioned last weekend that I had two finished projects to show you, and these legwarmers were one of them. I had been hoping to get a photo of Mina modeling them, but so far she has been uncooperative. She was excited about the first one I finished and had to try it on both legs, but now that they are both done she won't keep them on for longer than 30 seconds. The patterns is Legwarmies by Alana Dakos, and is available for free. I used one ball of Dalegarn Baby Ull that Mina picked out herself on a trip to the LYS. The loves to grab yarn off the shelves, hug it, and rub it against her cheek (she's a natural yarn lover already!), but this particular ball she refused to put back. She played with it at home for a few days before losing interest, and then it spent a year hanging out in my stash until a tempting pattern came along for it. I completed these in a weekend on size US 3 needles. They reach just above her knees if pulled up all the way, or they can scrunch down lower on her calves. If she would wear them.

The legwarmies were my project for the last weekend in February. For the first weekend in March (just a few days ago) I made myself a Tudora with the leftover Rio de la Plata from Mina's Swing Thing. I did all of the knitting on Saturday night, and then on Sunday I wove in the ends and went button shopping. I wanted to fit in a couple more Fire projects for Project Spectrum, and this was certainly a quick one! I haven't worn it out of the house yet. I think I need to move the button a bit. I knew I woulnd't get gauge with the cushy Rio de la Plata, so I modified the pattern slightly and cast on 88 stitches rather than 112. It is a bit big on me (and I can't take a decent photo of myself to save my life):

I'm not sure how much use Tudora will actually see, so maybe it will become a gift. My favorite part is the crescent moon-shaped wooden button, found at JoAnn's for about $1.50.

I wanted at least one more PS Fire project before March is over, so I tried casting on for Tikru's Chevalier Mittens using some Mountain Colors 4/8's Wool from my stash in the lovely Berries colorway, but once I had knitted the cuff I realized I will need to use a lighter weight yarn and smaller gauge to get this pattern to work for me. It is sized for a women's medium or man's small, which is far too big. I was able to get both of my wrists in the cuff with room to spare. So instead I grabbed another Mountain Colors yarn from the stash and cast on for the Cut & Paste Socks by Becca Diaz.

I am knitting this on US size 0 needles, which is making a rather dense fabric at 8.5 stitches per inch, but they seem to fit. This gauge is within the recommended range for Bearfoot, but I think I'd be more comfortable knitting it on 1's. But then my sock would be too big. So we'll see how it goes. I am the slowest sock knitter in the world, so I know these won't be done anytime soon.

The new Knitty came out yesterday. Guess what this scarf lover cast on for last night?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

duchess raglan

Finally, I plowed my way through two plain stockinette sleeves, and I have a finished sweater.

Pattern: Duchess Raglan, a free pattern from Classic Elite
Yarn: Merino Bulky in Bordeaux, a nice fiery Project Spectrum color, just under four skeins
Needles: US 10
Started: sometime in January
Finished: March 6

For some reason I race through the bodies of sweaters but totally balk at knitting the sleeves. When I finally suck it up and get the sleeves done, I'm so happy to have a finished sweater that I wonder why I procrastinated for so long.

I made a few modifications to this pattern, the main one being knitting it from the top down rather than bottom up. If you look at the photo that accompanies the pattern, you'll see that the raglan decreases go all the way to the edge of the neckline. If you like that look, keep that in mind because the pattern will tell you to knit another inch after completing the decreases before binding off the neck. When I was translating this to top down, I first wrote down that I needed to knit an inch plain before starting the increases. I'm glad I noticed the error, because the main things that attracted me to this pattern were the slip stitch detail along the raglan lines and the raw edges. Adding an inch at the neck would have given it a different look.

Since the sleeve and bottom edges roll, I added plenty of length to both. I'm pulling the hem downward in both of the photos above. When left on its own it hits at about my mid hip. The sleeves are nice and cozy. I can pull them down over my hands or let them roll naturally up. I haven't washed or blocked this sweater yet, and I'm a little afraid the sleeves will grow too long. I'll just have to shorten them if that happens. I kind of just did my own thing with the sleeves rather than following the pattern. I didn't want them to be as tight as the sample sweater's seemed to be. They are comfortable the way they are now, but sort of don't match the body - very fitted body, loose sleeves. It's fine though.

I wanted to make sure I ended up with a wide neckline, so I cast on more stitches than the pattern indicated the finished neck opening should have. Every time I tried it on throughout the knitting, I thought the neck was still smaller than I had wanted. But, now that the sweater is finished the weight of the body and sleeves pulls the neck open and it is actually a bit too wide. You can see it about to fall off my shoulder in this photo. The neck is also quite low in the back. I've seen mentioned on blogs and message boards something about using short rows in the center back to bring the back neck up, but I didn't think of that until after I had finished, and wouldn't know how to go about doing it to begin with. That will be something to learn with another sweater.

I wore the sweater to work on Friday, the morning after I finished it, and I wore it around town to do errands on Saturday too. Other than the shoulders tending to fall down, it's very comfortable and wearable, and I especially like the length and shaping. It's so satisfying to feel good wearing something I've made myself. Sweater knitting is addicting. See?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

love multiplied

Today I received this ATC from Bobbi in Iowa as part of the Project Spectrum Fire ATC swap. Bobbi didn't include her blog or email address, so I hope she is out there watching for this to arrive safely. Thank you so much, Bobbi! Bobbi named her creation "Love Multiplied," and I think it's beautiful. I had a rough day today, and it was so nice to have this envelope waiting for me on the kitchen counter when I got home from work. I teared up a little when I opened it and saw this inside. The image is so perfect for me right now for reasons I can't explain (and no, I am not pregnant again!). Bobbi claims she isn't an artist. I hope she pops in and says hello so that I can reach her and tell her otherwise.

I sent my own ATC's off to my swap partners yesterday. I forgot to scan them before I went to bed the night before and didn't have a real camera at work with me before I mailed them, so I snapped some quickie photos with my phone before sending them on their way. My phone battery died later in the day and apparently all data from the last few hours before battery death was lost. Strange. And disappointing, because now I have no record of those little cards. Oh well! Hopefully my swap partners will be able to post pictures.

Speaking of Project Spectrum, while I was on Flickr earlier checking the PS pool, I came across this. Go, go look! The permissions are set so I can't put the photo here for you to see. Did you go? My jaw literally dropped open when I saw that color, and I said aloud to the empty room "Oh. My. God!" If anyone ever asks me what my favorite color is, I will just show them this photo. I want to live inside that color. I want everything I own to be that color. I want to be that color! It's that wow. Fortunately for me it sounds like Adam will be adding it as a regular Yarn Nerd colorway, and then I'll be able to knit myself... something giant. Must envelop self in that color!

I promised a FO earlier this week. I have two of them now, just no photos yet. It's been difficult to get the girlie to model the first object in question for more than 30 seconds. She seems to like them, and she picked out the yarn herself. She just likes to take them off again immediately. Is Dalegarn Baby Ull itchy to anyone? It seemed fine to me, but who knows. Although she's fine with Kureyon on her forehead, so I don't know how Baby Ull on the legs could be a problem. Anyway. We may have to go for an unmodeled shot tomorrow. One way or another, there will be knitting photos soon.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

another scarf

Have I ever mentioned that I am a scarf person? Like really, really a scarf person. I don't know why, I just love to wear them. From where I am sitting right now I can see eight of them and I know there are at least that many more somewhere around here.

I also said the other day that I knit lace very slowly. I guess I lied about that one (but I'm really not lying about being a scarf person. I love them!), because here is my Haruha scarf, finished!

I actually finished this a few days ago, then got lazy about weaving in the six little ends and blocking it. But I finally gave in and did it and this morning I had a new scarf to wear. I don't have a photo of myself wearing it, but if I did have one it would show a nice big blissful smile, because this yarn is the softest yarn I've ever put around my neck, the color is so rich, and it drapes so beautifully that I can't help but feel happy wearing it.

I had the perfect opportunity to wear it today, too. The weather is being typical spring here, nice and chilly but not so yucky that you want to stay confined indoors when it isn't raining, so Mina and I took our first regular walk of the year. By "regular walk" I mean the walk that we took nearly every single day from mid-spring through early fall last year, the seven blocks from our house into the main business area of our neighborhood. Our part of town is full of independent, local shops and restaurants, historic buildings, the library, a small grocery store, a weekly farmer's market in season, and generally enough to occupy you for a couple of hours every day. We hit the little kid clothing boutique, the bookstore, the yarn shop, and the toy store before Mina had had enough and requested mac & cheese and a nap. It had clouded over by the time we got out of the grocery store, and we were both chilled by the time we got home. The spring wind can be so cold! We're still recovering from colds too, so maybe it wasn't the best plan, but J is out of town with the car and I was feeling stir-crazy. The only option for getting out was a walk. (I know, I'm a wimp. I'm complaining about damp spring winds while other people are dealing with snow and negative temperatures.)

Later this week I have another FO to show you, plus my teeny tiny purchase at the LYS today. I am still on the yarn-buying fast until the Spring Equinox, but this was really the tiniest of all possible yarn purchases and allows me to make something with an odd ball of stash yarn, so it's cool. I'm also hoping to walk again tomorrow with the camera so that I can return with photographic evidence that spring really is here.