On Giants' Shoulders

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Yarn Is Very Happy Now

I finally finished the February Lady Sweater.  It's actually not a difficult pattern (so long as you keep your wits about you, if you don't there's some frogging involved!).  It came out fitting perfectly.  My sleeves are longer than the picture that came with the pattern (deliberately so) and the sweater itself is also longer.  I have probably about 3/4 of a skein of the yarn left.

I really do like the color now.  This sweater will go both with dressy skirts and casual pants, so it's a definite win/win all around.  I'm really glad that I went to the trouble of dying the yarn.  I'm amazed at how evenly it dyed because frequently when I've dyed homespun I've ended up with variations in the color, sometimes pretty variations, but definitely not the even color I got this time.

My next project is supposed to be a dress for my granddaughter, but I'm currently allowing myself to be temporarily sidetracked by a pair of socks.  The yarn is a wool bamboo mix in a pink and sort of purple (almost brown) color way (I love those yarns that make their own stripes).  It's incredibly soft and I'm loving knitting with bamboo sock needles (this is the first time I've tried them).  I needed a mindless knitting break after all that lace before I attack another more fiddly pattern and socks are my main knitting addiction.  When I knit a pair of plain socks I no longer even need a pattern.  I know that for me I can simply cast on 64 stitches with most sock yarns (with Kroy I sometimes reduce that down to 60), and simply have at it.  I do a knit 2 purl 2 cuff for as long as I feel like then switch to plain stockinette until I get to the heel.  I knit the heel on half the stitches, turn it, pick up 17 stitches on each side for the gusset then decrease back down to 64 stitches around until I start the decreases for the toe.  Easy peasy.  I will admit I still smile every time I turn a heel because my mother used to tell me how hard that was (it isn't).

So all's right with the yarn at the moment.  Stay tuned to find out whether the dress for the almost four year old turns into an adventure or not.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Yup, The Yarn Had Other Ideas

That yarn that I bought for the Effortless Cardigan clearly was looking for a major makeover.  I started a February Lady Sweater (a pattern I've been meaning to try for  a couple of  years, and got a new enthusiasm for when my daughter made one for herself and said how easy it was).  Every single person in the family indicated either by look or actual expression something along the lines of "do you REALLY like that color?"  Now I must admit that I'd had my doubts about the color myself.  I bought it because it was the type of yarn I wanted and it was the only color the store had with enough skeins to make a sweater for me.  My doubts really came from the fact that, while it might have been a decent color for me before my hair started to go gray, it really didn't work all that well with the graying hair.  It also was sort of the color of baby sheep poop.  So I could kind of see the all around objections.

So, I abandoned the project for awhile.  We ended up in the midst of a hospitalization for my husband (for brain surgery no less), and many, many doctor's appointments.  I needed something to work on so I started a very easy shawl and finished up my daughter's socks. Reskeining and dyeing yarn simply didn't work into the schedule.

Finally, I got the time to reskein the yarn (a several hour long process), and begin figuring out what I wanted to do about changing its color.  I pulled out my bag of Jacquard dyes purchased several years ago at the Sheep and Wool Festival, thinking that I had a nice cocoa brown in there that would be just perfect.  Alas, no cocoa brown to be seen.  What I had was various shades of red, purple, and blue.  I decided to do a test dye using several different colors.  I got small jars and put a piece of yarn and some hot water in them, then I added just a smidge of dye.  I tried vermillion, cherry red, sky blue, and teal.  Then I simmered the jars in my steamer/dyepot for the requisite amount of time.  The colors were all pretty fantastic, although none of them were the color the dye stated.  The blue came out a very, very deep blue (not quite navy), the vermillion came out rather a maroon, the cherry red was a sort of rusty red, and the teal came out something between a teal green and a hunter green.  After examining them closely and looking at the options in my wardrobe, I decided to go with the teal dye.  The next step was to actually dye the yarn.  That meant soaking it in hot water for a bit and then popping it into the dyepot and stirring for a half an hour.  Then I had to wash it to get the excess dye out, then I had to spin it in the washing machine to get the excess water out, then it had to hang overnight to finish drying.  The next day I had to begin putting it into balls, no easy task since yarn that's been through the dyepot always seems to get a bit tangles.  It was a several hours job (even more hours than the re-skeining had been).  However, it was worth it.  The color is lovely, and the sweater knitting has commenced.

Thanks to Ravelry (and a tip from my daughter) I've made it past the garter stitch yoke, through the separating of the sleeves, and onto the gull lace without many glitches (I did have to start it twice because of a bone headed mistake somewhere in the increases and I forgot to stay in garter stitch at the button band for one row which required me to go back and redo eight stitches over six vertical rows).  This particular lace pattern is easy to remember which means I can take this project with me to meetings etc.

The yarn now appears to be happy in its present state.  It's so much easier to knit with a color you really like than with one you're trying to convince yourself to love.  So all's right with the knitting right now.  The yarn is no longer asserting an ugly side to its personality (it was very uncooperative in its former color) and now I'll I have to hope (since I haven't actually really tried this puppy on yet), is that it's actually going to fit.  It should, I'm getting gauge, and the garter stitch and gull lace should be reasonably stretchy anyway.

The other thing I've figured out is that as much as I love Addi-Turbo needles for their slickness, I'm having a really difficult time knitting for long periods of time with either the Addi's or my metal double points.  I can knit comfortably with bamboo needles for much longer periods of time, although I do get frustrated when the stitches don't slip as easily as they would with slicker needles.  However, knitting without pain is worth the frustration.  I also have figured out that using yarn loops for markers may work okay when you've only got four markers in a row, but when you've got markers every 7 stitches across 320+ stitches the yarn loops begin to get annoying.  I ran out of nice plastic markers with this project, and so I've resorted to safety pins, not as nice as the commercial makers, but better than the yarn loops.  I'm thinking about going to Joanne's and buying some jewelry making pieces that I can use to make my own markers.  I've seen some really pretty ones at the yarn store, but I think I can make for less than I'd pay for them.  I've also seen some really cool ones (like scrabble tiles for example) on other people's blogs.  So apparently markers have become a new novelty for knitters.  My current commercial markers are simply the ones that look like safety pins.  I actually like them in a project where I need to move markers around a lot, but they aren't strictly necessary to this project.  I just need markers that slip easily (and preferably don't go flying across the room when I slip them too quickly).

As I've rambled on about the knitting, you may have wondered about the brain surgery, and how I can seem so calm.  Well, it was weeks ago, my husband is back to work, and as far as brain surgery goes, the surgery itself was pretty uncomplicated.  The overall prognosis is another matter.  The tumor was a metastasis from a melanoma he had removed from his arm in the fall, and it looks like we may be heading into drug therapy to try to ward off another metastasis.  At the moment he's had radiation at the surgery site (which fortunately was just on the surface of the brain), his most recent PET scan was clear, and well we're moving on from there.  I'm not always calm, although knitting has been a calming presence through all of this.  I've driven on  slippery roads I didn't think I could, I've dealt with the claims department at the insurance company in an organized calm manner that I didn't know I had in me.  I've put one foot in front of the other on days I would have simply hidden under the covers all day.  The prayers of friends and family have kept me going and an at least weekly reception of the Eucharist has sustained me in a way that I never could have imagined two decades ago.

It's been a roller coaster winter.  Not only have we had brain surgery to deal with, but three weeks after that my daughter delivered her second baby by an unexpected C-section (well unexpected up until a week or so beforehand) because her little boy was stubbornly in a breech position.  Everyone came through that well and now they are adjusting to life as a foursome.  I had a marvelous (an exhausting) few days taking care of my granddaughter, and now I'm back home again and trying to pick up the threads of normal life that got completely dropped in the middle of January.

This was supposed to be a winter of quiet knitting and spinning.  It's been a winter where some knitting has gotten done, but the spinning wheels continue to gather dust in corners.  All my plans have been put on hold so many times that I've pretty much stopped making plans.  I'm taking one day at a time, and trying to keep at least one easy to travel project in my bag to carry with me.  I've been very thankful for a cell phone, a Kindle, a knitting project that doesn't require a lot of thought, and easily eaten foods (soup and pudding works for better for me in a crisis than deli-sandwiches, however).

Oh well, that's the winter so far.  Not being an adrenaline junkie, it's had far more excitement than I would have preferred.  I have to say that knitting truly has been a gift in the middle of all this.  I knit through the surgery quite calmly, just as I knit through two previous surgeries fairly calmly.  When I think back to the absolute panic I was in when my husband had surgery on his leg when we were in our early 30's and I didn't think to pull out some knitting, I know that having a knitting lifestyle has been helpful.  Stephanie Pearl McPhee talks in her most recent book about the time of the great not knitting, but thus far knitting rather than not knitting has made a lot more sense.  I think it provides a sense of routine that makes the abnormal situation at least feel somewhat normal.  At a time where I had to remain calm and optimistic being able to sit down and simply knit stitch after stitch helped me to do that. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Clearly the Yarn Had Other Ideas

Well, I finished the Effortless Cardigan yesterday, tried it on and decided that I hated it.  The yarn clearly didn't want to be that.  The sweater was way too big (despite the fact that I "got gauge") it hung funny, it just plain looked stupid.  My daughter told me on Thursday, when I was already having serious doubts about the project, that she thought that pattern probably only looked good on someone who was six feet tall and weighed 110 pounds.  Since I am neither of those and never will be either of those, it didn't look good on me.  So I spent three hours unraveling the sweater (and if I'd only unraveled the sleeves first it would have gone faster).  Now I've cast on and knit the first dozen rows of a February Lady Sweater.  Abby just made one and I really liked it.  So far my first modification is to decide I don't like the ultra heavy buttons that the designer used, so I'm using a simpler buttonhole than she suggests and will go with slightly smaller buttons.  Because I've got other knitting to do, this will almost certainly not be done by Christmas.   So I guess it's a good thing I have the other two sweaters I've knit this year.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says that sometimes the yarn has other ideas from the project you chose it for.  Well this time, it clearly had other ideas.  I probably should have taken a picture of just how ugly this sweater was, but, suffice it to say that the males in the family agreed.  Although, to be fair they both pointed out that they didn't even like the style on the ultra thin model that the pattern showed.  As my son pointed out, the way she was posed didn't even show what was going to happen when she was standing more normally or walking.  So clearly I forgot one of the first rules of knitting, "don't trust a pattern where the model has to be posed in a special way."  Perhaps there's a reason why most of the "Ravelers" seemed to show their sweater off their bodies.  They mostly complained about it needing to be sized down, but I did that, so that wasn't the problem.  I did use (as did many of them) a slightly heavier yarn than the pattern called for, but it wasn't just the drape of the sweater that was wrong (and many of the people who used it got a decent drape).  It was truly that the pattern was a. wrong for me and b. perhaps too "high fashion" in style for someone who really prefers something a little more fitted and classic.  I love slouchy sweaters to hang around the house in, but this one just didn't do it ---  even for that.  I also like sweaters that I can wear with a skirt to church or with jeans for just running around elsewhere, and this really wasn't going to be that.  Hence it the yarn now sits in balls waiting for a second incarnation.

This new sweater is based on the baby sweater in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Almanac.  I think I'm going to knit one of those for the new baby, but using stockinette stitch where she uses the gull lace, since Abby thinks the lace would be too girly for a little boy.  I've seen renditions of this sweater using stockinette, so I'm pretty sure it will work just fine.  It will also knit up faster that way.

We've got Mass today for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception  and then I'll come home and do some major knitting, at least if my arthritic hands don't object too badly.  I don't have all the yarn I need for all the projects I intend to do, but I've got enough yarn to get me through the weekend.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Guess I Have To Like IT

That sweater I wasn't so sure about got completely unsolicited compliments this week from three total strangers.  First the loan officer at the credit union complimented it, when I said I'd made it she was astonished because she said it didn't look homemade.  Then, a nurse at the hospital (who saw me knitting) asked me if I made the sweater too and told me how much she liked it.  Then the checkout person in the cafeteria told me how nice my sweater looked and asked if I'd made it.  Three times in three days (twice in one day).  I guess it's a winner.  I think it's partly the color, which is a pretty incredibly pretty blue.  But since everyone is also complimenting how well it's made, I guess I did a good job of it.

Now I'm on to working on the next sweater (called Effortless Cardigan).  This one is in a sort of gold color called straw.  It was the only color the yarn shop had in the type of yarn I wanted with a sufficient amount.  I was looking at the chocolate brown, but I would have been one skein short.  This will work with the brown items in my wardrobe (which I seem to have a lot of), and it would have been pretty much overkill to knit yet another blue sweater (even though I'm not sure I can really every have too much  blue in my wardrobe).  I had a couple of false starts with this one, but once I got used to the m1L, m1R pattern it started being pretty effortless.  I've got about another 14 rows until I put the sleeve stitches on holders. 

I've also got another pair of socks nearly done (1 done, 1 halfway down the foot).  So the needles have been busy lately, partly due to many, many minutes sitting in waiting rooms (for hubby, not me). I will say that knitting in waiting rooms really does make me both more patient and less anxious.  I'm trying to convince my husband he should take it up to lower his blood pressure.  So far he's not buying the idea.  He says he thinks it would raise his blood pressure.

Now we'll see whether we're really getting Frankenstorm here this next week.  On the upside, I won't run out of yarn while knitting my way through a storm.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sweater Finished, but Do I like It?

The sweater is finished, got waylaid by necessary sock knitting, and some personal glitches, but it's now done (well except for a few ends that need to be woven in, but which I'm sort of waiting for Green Mt. Fiber's finishing class to do properly). Now I'm doing my post project assessment.  I don't know if I like the ties, I think I might prefer a button closure.  The length is certainly attractive enough, but it's a bit shorter than I usually wear.  I'm still not sure about the length of the sleeves (although I've already lengthened them once).  I think perhaps it's that these sleeves don't have ribbing at the wrist so they slide up pretty easily when you're moving around.   I don't really want them a lot longer because they'll get in the way when I'm doing things like cooking, but they sort of feel funny when I stretch out my arms

When I began the project, I thought I'd probably knit this one again.  I might, if I can figure out how to do it with a button closure, and perhaps modify the sleeves a bit.  It's Stephanie Pearl-Mc Fee's favorite sweater and she says she wears it untied, but I'm not sure how.  The longer of the two ties would be a total nuisance if it weren't tied.

On the plus side, it fits nicely, the color's great.  The yarn is beautifully soft, and it's going to make a nice warm sweater to wear with either jeans or a skirt.  It's actually more like a pullover than a cardigan and perhaps what I really was looking for was a true cardigan.  However, another sort of pullover is fine for now.

I'm trying to decide whether to spend today: a.knitting socks b. repairing the toes in last winter's socks c. spinning yarn for another sweater d. figuring out what I'm going to knit first for my daughter's next baby (whom we just found out is a boy).  I definitely can't do much baby knitting (well I do have two skeins of DK weight yarn in yellow --- so I could start something) until I either order or get to the store to buy some blue yarn.  At the moment, I'm carless because the brake line in the car broke yesterday, so whatever I do today, I have to do at home.

Right now, I'm headed downstairs to make some cocoa because my house is freezing. However, with the new sweater, at least my arms are warm.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sometimes It's Time to Take A Break

I've been working off and on on that Elfin Shawl all summer.  There have been both major and minor frogs.  Right now I'm nearly back to where I was after the major frog, but I'm there for the second time since I had to pull out about 12 rows again last week (thank heavens for my life line!).  I really was ready for some "mindless knitting" where I could remember that I like to knit, that it relaxes me, that it's fun to do while I watch oh, say a marathon of Poirot via Netflix.  So this week I've started a lovely top down wrap cardigan.  It's in my favorite teal blue and I've already knit the whole first skein worth of yarn (which means I'm already over one 6th done with it, and I've only been working on it for four days (and far from constantly).  It's worsted weight, it's on size 8 needles, and it's a lot of just plain old knit, or just plain old purl with an occasional increase thrown in.  There's no lace pattern, if the stitches fall off the needles they're pretty easy to pick up again.  If they drop down a couple of rows they're easy to get back where they belong.    I can actually envision finishing this thing by, oh, maybe the end of next week. 

I will keep on with the shawl eventually (I even knit a few rows on it this week), but I'm done obsessing with it for the moment.  Maybe if I stuff it aside for awhile it will decide to play nice and cooperate instead of dropping stitches willy nilly.  Badly behaved knits frequently end up in the UFO pile (unfinished objects).  I don't want that shawl to end up there, but I've got other projects I'd like to do, and I don't want to spend all my time on something that refuses to cooperate.  So for the moment the shawl is in "time out." and the nice wrap cardigan is getting my attention.

Of course I'm currently fighting a case of startitis.  I saw some lovely sock yarn, a cute pattern for a baby sweater, a couple of maternity sweater patterns (can you guess there's another grandbaby on the way), and I even contemplated crocheting a granny square afghan for about 30 seconds this afternoon (I haven't crocheted anything in years).  I'm hoping that disciplining myself to finish this sweater will help stave off multiple projects all over the house.

Oh, in case anyone is interested here's the link to the pattern for the current sweater http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/-263-neck-down-wrap-cardigan  It's actually the sort of pattern that someone could do for their very first sweater project.  The directions are pretty clear, although I don't like the side increases after you divide for the sleeves on the "cast on one stitch" end.  Instead of doing that I'm purling in the front and back of the last purl stitch on the previous row because I think it makes a neater edge to pick up stitches from later on and it better matches the knit in the front and back of the last stitch at the end of the row.  BTW for anyone who likes the Yarn Harlot, this is a sweater pattern that she supposedly really likes.  There are lots of examples of the sweater at Ravelry in lots of different sizes, so you can get a good idea what it would look like on just about any figure.

Now to get back to my knitting, and back to Poirot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oh, No, A Huge Frog!

It was going so well.  I had over 200 stitches on the needles, the end of the Elfin lace was in sight.  I had two carefully placed lifelines in case something went wrong, but it was going swimmingly.  Then I paused to take an admiring glance at what I'd done.  I stretched the work out trying to see just how big it was apt to be and then I saw it.  There were two dropped stitches way, way, way down towards the bottom of the triangle (like over 100 rows down!).  At first I couldn't believe it.  Then I was totally perplexed.  My stitch count had been spot on, how could there be dropped stitches.  I finally figured out the how anyway.  Row seven has a bunch of slip, slip, knit, pass the slipped stitches over.  Clearly at some point the two slipped stitches got dropped out of the resultant stitch (i.e. the knit stitch didn't get properly passed over).  Hence the stitch count was right, but there were these two dropped stitches sitting there making a hole that wasn't supposed to be there.  Now if this were just stockinette stitch knitting I'd take out my trusty crochet hook and ladder them back up, no problem.  If it were cables I might still (with a lot of time and patience) be able to do likewise (with the additional help of some dp needles).  This is lace though, so the only answer was to frog it.  The mistake was below the lifelines, so I had to carefully make sure I went back only the the row where the mistake was, pick up the stitches, tink back another row to get to a secure place and start knitting back up again.  I've now reknit 16 of the 100+ rows, but I think I showed great restraint to just sigh when I saw this particular mistake instead of throwing the whole thing on the floor and lighting it on fire.

I'm sure there's a lesson here somewhere.  I thought I'd been looking at things carefully all along, I can't understand why this didn't show up earlier.  I'd even stretched the piece out to show it to other people (including the lady at the yarn shop) and none of them saw this one either.  Clearly the biggest lesson I'm learning is to be patient and persistent.  I actually don't hate the pattern even now.  The positive side of it is that I get to knit the pattern I know for rows and rows and don't have to face that border anytime soon.  I've also figured out a better way to do the make one at the ends of the rows, so maybe the ends will have less of a tendency to go askew on me.