Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Actually, I forgot that today was Earth Day until I got on the bus this morning and saw that it was a Free Ride day. Then I had to think for a minute to come up with a reason why the bus would be free on a random Tuesday...oh yeah, public transit, Earth Day...makes sense. Ok! Earth Day is one of those dates, like the solstices and equinoxes, that I want to celebrate but it just sneaks up on me. I do my best to live responsibly every day, but Earth Day is still a good reminder to take some time to think about what I could be doing better, and to celebrate Earth's beauty.

Today, I'll celebrate by showing you my finished Global Warming sweater.



Global Warming, by Suvi S.
Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Superwash, Emerald City
Cast on April 4, 2008
Finished April 18, 2008


My only modifications were to add a couple of short rows to the back neck and not adding the pocket. I knit it, but I haven't blocked it or sewn in on. I can always put it on later if I want it. Oh, I almost forgot the other modification! When the sweater was first finished, I decided it was way too short. This didn't surprise me much, and I knew just what to do:



Yep, scissors. I turned my sweater "upside down" so the cast on edge (the bottom hem) was at the top, and inserted my circular needle through the right leg of each stitch on the round before the ribbing. Then just a little snip snip, and the ribbing came right off, leaving live stitches on the needle ready to go. I knit "downwards" for two or three inches before knitting new ribbing and binding off. It worked perfectly, and the site of the surgery is completely invisible. I had read differing comments on Ravelry explaining that it would work this way and be imperceptible, and conversely that it would be half a stitch off leaving a noticeable line where the direction changed. I consulted Knit Fix, which also told me that the direction change would show. I didn't believe it. Really, if you turn your knitting this way and that and really look at it, it is fairly obvious. And, I can now verify firsthand that at least for stockinette in the round, this fix is completely invisible. I can't tell at all where the direction changes. I know this wouldn't be true for ribbing or other pattern stitches, but luckily I didn't have to worry about that.



I really love the puffed sleeves on this sweater. I like my clothes fairly simple, but with little details that make them slightly out of the ordinary. This sleeve is a perfect touch. I finished knitting the sweater on Thursday night, but it was midnight already so I saved the binding off and finishing (of which there is very little) for the following evening. The only seams on Global Warming are at the underarms where you are seaming two bound off edges together. Lucky me - that kind of seam is the only one I like to do. Maybe it's weird, but I really love watching those raw edges magically fuse together and disappear.

A few words about the yarn: it's a very sturdy and rustic-feeling wool, and I have hard time believing it to be superwash. I'm not going to take any chances with it - it's so fuzzy and grabby that it feels like it would easily felt. I was also surprised that it is 100% wool. It has the same sort of fuzzy haze that regular Lamb's Pride, with its mohair content, displays. The superwash is a loose three ply and slightly lighter weight than regular Lamb's Pride. It is also splitty and itchy. Sounds like no fun, right? I actually didn't mind it. Really, I'd say I enjoyed knitting with it. I can't capture the subtlety of the color with my basic camera, but the deep emerald is actually a heather, so if you look closely you can see strands of sapphire blue and daffodil yellow, and occasionally tiny flecks of red violet. It's the kind of green that would really pop if you held a bouquet of daffodils next to it. I daydream about finding bright yellow tights to wear with it, which reminds me of Women in Love, even though I haven't read that book in ten years. Anyway, besides the beautiful color, the yarn is comfortably wearable after a good soak with some hair conditioner (and now it smells like mint and tea tree). It isn't next-to-skin-soft by any means, but is just fine over a light tee shirt. I wore my sweater all day on Sunday, both out and about and relaxing at home, and liked it more and more as the day went on.

So, a successful sweater on all counts. Thank you, Suvi, for sharing your pattern!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

slowly

What is the term, is it entropy? You know, the example of the rollercoaster car at the top of the slope, just at the point of careening downward, but for a moment it sits there with all its energy stored, potential but not yet action? Before I typed all that out it seemed like that was the perfect metaphor for the motion of this sweater, but really that's not quite right. More perfect is the cliché "one step forward, two steps back." If you know what I mean.



I don't know how many more times I can show you a green blob and get away with it. And lest anyone think this pattern is difficult and get scared off, please know that everything you are about to read here can be attributed to user error. The pattern, as it is, has nothing at all wrong with it. It assumes you have knit a raglan sweater before, which I have, or at least that you can look up and understand how to do so, which any knitter can do. It also assumes that you actually READ THE PATTERN, which I, apparently, did not.

So, last we met, I was about to frog my sleeve and decrease progress. It was about one night's worth of work. I have done a raglan sweater before. Five, actually. All were top down, so I was dealing with increases rather than decreases. Going about it from the other direction isn't harder at all, I just didn't think about it before I started. So, my decreases went ssk, slip marker, k2tog. While technically that would have gotten the job done, it left gaps and general untidiness that would have ensured that I never wore the sweater. So, I started again, this time doing ssk, k1, sm, k1, k2tog. Much better!

I knit merrily along my way, watching way too much crime drama and paying way too little attention to what the pattern said. I thought the sleeves were getting awfully big. Wow, I thought, this is going to be some serious puff! I double checked the pattern to find that I was supposed to stop the sleeve increases (for the puffy) after seven increase rounds. I had done thirteen. Double the puff! That would have been just ridiculous, so I ripped again - fourteen long, long rounds.

Again, I knit merrily along with more crime drama for company, until I realized I had missed a decrease a few rows below. I tried to get all tricksy with the dropping down and picking back up of stitches, incorporating the missed decrease along the way, but only messed it up further. I want to actually wear this thing, you know? This time, it was only three rounds. So I tinked, stitch by stitch. Yes, that takes forever. But I'm knitting with one of the splittiest wools known to knitter, and trying to get five million stitches back onto the needle after ripping would take longer. I knew that, because I'd done it twice already. Argh.

All is well now. I've done eleven raglan decreases, so I'm nearing the end. I surprise myself with my focus on this project. I haven't touched any other knitting since April 3rd. During a slow period on Thursday afternoon, I came up with a sweater design that I was so excited about I immediately ordered the yarn to make it. My order arrived with Saturday morning's mail (I love Elann, they are always so fast!), and as soon as Global Warming is done I'll start working on my first pattern. I'm not forgetting about my other projects, especially Snow White. I'm lucky, I guess, to live in the land of long, chilly springs, so I should still be able to finish it in time to wear before summer. It's a little scary how much of my time is spent thinking about sweaters. I've always loved sweaters, even before I was a knitter. But now, wow. I found a good one for tomorrow's Sweater of the Week (link may not work until the morning of April 14, 6:something Pacific time!) too. I'm pretty excited about it. Yet more to knit!

Edit 4/14/08: 1) I realized it's inertia, not entropy. 2)I'll be ripping again tonight.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

full

Last night I was thinking about how nearly every minute of my day is filled with some activity or another, how there is rarely an empty moment. As soon as I get up, it's rushrushrush to get out the door on time to make it to the office. As soon as I get home, I spend a few minutes snuggling Mina before I have to clean up the day's messes, make dinner, attend to the house. Bath time, bedtime, finally relax time, but wait - I have photos to edit and upload, things to write, things to read, things to knit. Sometimes this can overwhelm me. Other times, it's nice to feel like everything I do has its purpose, however small. Even though my time is filled, much of it is "want to do" rather than "have to do," and that is nice.

I've been making good progress on Global Warming, attaching the sleeves and beginning the yoke.



I did the first few rounds of puffed sleeve increases and raglan decreases last night, and then realized that I wasn't leaving any plain knit stitches in between the decreases. Technically it would still work, but it looks messy so I think I need to rip out about 10 rounds and start again. So although the sweater is a bit beyond what this picture shows, it will be ripped back to this point again tonight. It also looks like it's coming out shorter than I thought it would. Suvi mentions in the pattern that the sweater is quite short, but I am quite short as well. When I started the waist shaping I held it up to compare and it seemed like it would reach to mid-hip, but now it doesn't appear that it will. I'm going to finish everything, including the pocket, and see how much yarn I have left. I'll probably end up picking out the cast on edge, ripping back the ribbing, and adding length.

Mina and I had a little fun the other day with some of the myriad crayon bits in our house. The girlie loves crayons. What she loves best about them is not coloring, but breaking them in half and peeling off the paper. Once she gets in the crayon peeling zone it's like an obsession, and she MUST break and peel every crayon she can find. She'll get upset if I ask her to stop. I've had to shove aside my own preference for neatly ordered, pristine boxes of crayons to let her do her own thing. I've learned to keep my "good" art supplies hidden, for now, otherwise I'll end up with watercolor crayons in tiny pieces. She broke an entire box of 96 Crayolas into bits, most of them too small to use comfortably. So, we recycled them.



I can't claim credit for this idea. We bought a Martha Stewart "Good Things for Kids" magazine at the supermarket recently, and while I'm not normally a Martha fan, this little one is full of really fun ideas. I couldn't find the cute, heart-shaped candy molds like they used in the magazine photos, but a mini muffin tin was a good substitute. We sorted the crayon bits by color families and filled each cup about 1/3 to 1/2 full, then put it in the oven at the lowest temperature setting.



Once the crayons were completely melted, I let them cool on the counter until hard. The whole thing took a lot less time than I expected, maybe 45 minutes from start to finish. And look what we ended up with - new crayons!



If I do this again I'll watch the crayons more closely when they are in the oven and take them out sooner. Or maybe my oven was too hot, I'm not sure. For one of those reasons (I'm guessing), the clear paraffin separated from the pigment slightly and floated on top, so the crayon discs have a layer of colorless wax on one side that I need to scrape off. Other than that, I'd call this a great success. Mina was excited when she saw me take them out of the tin, immediately claiming them with an adamant "Mimi's! Mimi's!" (She came up with that on her own - she calls herself Mimi, which we think is pretty cute.) They popped out of the muffin tin easily, leaving no residue behind, so cleanup for this project was non-existent. They color just like regular crayons still, other than the shape. Lots of fun!

We had nice weather yesterday and I was able to take quite a few photos around the yard that I'll get uploaded to the Project Spectrum group as I am able. I'm hoping the rain stops today so I can get pictures of the new leaves on the rose bush and the juxtaposition of brand new and year old cones on my mystery tree before everything changes. I love seeing the tiny details of growing things - it moves me much more than views of vast landscapes.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

green

After the last few posts showing all my unfinished projects and my larger than really necessary stash of green and brown yarn, you didn't think I could possibly buy yet more green yarn and start yet another project, did you? I didn't think so. I didn't plan to. Really. It's just that when Suvi S./villapeikkoa posted this photo on Flickr about a month ago, I instantly fell in love with her sweater design. I looked at it on Ravelry every so often and wondered if she would write up the pattern. I had just been admiring it again on Friday morning, and lo and behold it appeared in the pattern browser that afternoon. Global Warming is a free pattern, written up in one size only, which (lucky me!) happens to be precisely my size. It was fate, I tell you. I rushed directly to the LYS after work, toddler in tow, hoping for some Cascade 220 in a pale aqua or spring green heather. I couldn't find anything in the colors I was imagining, but I was still so determined to start this sweater immediately that I settled for some emerald green heather Lamb's Pride Superwash. This stuff is GREEN.



I swatched, got gauge on 4's (3.5mm), cast on, and started knitting. As fast as I could. I don't think I've ever gone this quickly from the "ooh, great pattern!" stage to the work-in-progress stage - this is really a first.



I know these pictures aren't much to look at yet, but I think this sweater will go quickly. I've already begun the waist shaping. The green is a bit off in my pictures as well. I got it as close as I could in my photo software, but it isn't quite right. I was trying to think of what to compare it to earlier today while Mina and I were watching The Little Mermaid and I realized it is almost exactly the color of Ariel's tail, except heathery. Ha! It's really a perfect Project Spectrum color, and I think a good choice for a sweater called Global Warming. I admire the designer's cleverness with the name, and I think it's a perfect PS project. (Peeking at her blog today to link it, I see that she just finished the exact cardigan that I spent two days obsessing over until Global Warming distracted me. Synchronicity!)

Today was opening day for our local farmer's market, so Mina and I headed downtown this morning. We stopped at the aquarium store and the feed & seed/pet store so Mina could visit all her animal friends. She loves the feed & seed's resident rats, bunnies, and guinea pigs and the kitties waiting for adoption that the alternative humane society brings in to the store, and she likes to wander around the tropical fish section of the aquarium shop. We tried to go to the market after that, but there was so much noise and commotion that she freaked out a little. We're having issues with shyness right now, so she spent the whole time with her hands over her eyes, saying "bye bye! bye bye!" We managed one quick tour through the booths, enough to see that there are hardly any vegetables yet. Just a few pale carrots and green onions. I managed to pet a couple skeins of Spincycle but Mina was really freaking out by that time so we left. (That red capelet on their site's front page was on display, and oh my was it gorgeous! That photo doesn't do it justice.)

It seemed like nearly everyone at the crowded market today was wearing at least one handknit, it was amazing. I felt like such a slacker - Mina and I had not a single knit between us. What kind of self-proclaimed scarf lover am I if I can go about town without one? I'm hoping to have my Global Warming sweater done by next weekend. The plan is to visit the market every week, both to buy veggies and to help Mina get used to being around people. Hopefully it will be another good day for knit-spotting. I wish I'd been able to take pictures today. I saw some great knits and some inspirational color combinations and outfits - people here have a quirky and recognizable style that has probably influenced me more than I realize, having lived here so long. Today I was inspired to sew some skirts and mix some bold colors, like the teal skirt and burgundy tights combination I saw, or the white skirt with black tights, black and white patterned knee socks, and rollerskates(!) with red wheels. My deep emerald sweater is a good start, I think. The color makes me happy. So do my new shoes:



This is the first pair of All Stars I've bought since 1992! The last pair was a dusty plum color and lasted for 10 years. I'm hoping these ones last too, because I love them so much. Skulls with butterfly wings! Is it just me or do their sizes run larger now? I swear my last pair was a half size bigger. Anyway, I'll end with that - what a long and rambling post. Have a great rest of your weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Earth

Project Spectrum moves into phase two today, with the element Earth and the colors green, brown, and metallics. I've been waiting impatiently for the last week - I am ready for spring and was feeling very done with Fire.



As I sat at work yesterday I kept thinking that I didn't have many earth colors in my stash. I guess I was wrong. That center ball of cotton ribbon has already been cast on for a project perfectly suited for movie watching - the Phiaro Scarf from Winter/Spring 2008 Knitscene. The knitting is the plainest of plain stockinette tubes; all the action happens in the finishing. Once I finish Snow White, I'll choose another Earth-themed knit. I have many possibilities.



I have enough of this Yorkshire Tweed 4 ply to knit cardigans for both Mina (green) and me (brown). I thought that Muir would be appropriate, and would use up my handpaintedyarn.com wool lace (the green and brown on the right edge of the basket above). Or there could be a lace camisole, socks, Delicato mitts, or any number of other projects. Way more yarn than time!

I'm also planning to continue the Project Spectrum "diet." During the Fire months, I focused on increasing the whole grains in our kitchen, especially in baking. I added white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, spelt, oat, and amaranth flours to our pantry and quit using refined white flour altogether (except in homemade play dough!). I also experimented with pearl barley and amaranth in cooking, and tried quite a few new recipes with fiery ingredients. For Earth, my focus will be on vegetables. Our local farmer's market opens this weekend, and I'm hoping to make a habit of Saturday morning visits (besides, there's yarn there!). I would love to garden this year, but until I can find someone to help me build planter boxes that is just a dream. Maybe a container of greens, at least.

Speaking of Earth, did anyone participate in Earth Hour on Saturday? The girlie was in bed by that time and J works Saturday nights, so I observed it alone. It was actually quite nice to have the house so quiet and lit only by a few candles. The candlelight was enough for me to read by, but not to knit anything complex. I spent the time writing a little bit and then reading a novel that I'll write about here soon - I appear to be on a bit of a Japanese literature kick. Anyway, it was a pleasant hour and I almost didn't want to turn the lights on when it was over. (The need to knit won out eventually, though.) I may try to do this regularly as another way to acknowledge Earth during this phase of Project Spectrum.

Happy April, everyone. I think Spring is finally coming!