Monday, March 31, 2008

Breathing Again

The sojourners have returned. There was nothing in the news about any breakdown in USA/UK relations, so I assume England survived. They have come home with a marked change in their relationship. I base this on observation and their respective comments when the other hasn't been around. Sometimes your expectations can be confounded in a good way. All I can say is, "Whew!" since it could, of course, have blown up in our faces. As it is, I now have a regular supply of oxygen to my brain again.

Of course the important news, at least to my acquisitive little heart, is I got stuff.

The Westminster Abbey books to help me remember my trip with Clare. The Icon book from the British Museum is specifically from John (Icons and their writing fascinate me). The yarn represents their sole foray into a retail establishment - Liberty of London. This represents, according to them, the full spectrum of Liberty's 6-ply sock yarn. They also had 4 colors of 4-ply. That was it. (Can you imagine going to London and not going into Harrod's? Honestly. Guys.).

This bounty, perversely (I'm not the one who went to England, after all), has left me feeling a little guilty. It would seem, based on the number of times UPS or the mail carrier has rung my doorbell this past week, that I indulged in some retail therapy while I was more or less on my own.

I needed the neutrals they brought home. Shows you what oxygen deprivation can do to you when you're not looking.

P.S. Speaking of the Great Sock Yarn Project, Jess asked (so perhaps some of you were also wondering?) how much yarn the Barn-raising Quilt square took. I am very poor at making this kind of estimate, so here's a visual. This is the remainder of the Walk in the Woods next to an unused ball of Argyle Socks.

Claudia Handpaint comes in 175 yd/50g skeins, which, I understand, is single sock quantity. Allow for the fact that I hand-wind my yarn rather than using a ball-winder, and so there is likely some variation between any two balls of yarn. Still, it should, I hope, help give a rough idea of the quantity required.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Poly-, as in Many, Much, Excessive

I bet you're worried that I'm going to go all project-monogamous on you. "Oh, no," I can hear you muttering, "It's the mitered square thing all over again." Not so. The Barn-raising Quilt from Knitalong will certainly be making regular appearances here. Look at it like socks. Every sock knitter gets to post every new sock, at least the first one of the pair (the second seemingly not worthy of even a whisper until months or years later, the victim, as I understand it, of 2nd Sock Syndrome). You will have to endure similar progress reports as yarn accumulates and squares get completed.

Here's the first.

For those who are wondering, the yarn is Claudia Handpaints Fingering in Walk in the Woods. I am rather stunned to note that it blocks to 8 1/2 inches instead of the 7 1/2 inches the pattern called for. I knit this on the recommended size needles. The thought being that, however this one turned out, it could be the gauge swatch for the rest. I am, as noted many times before, a very tight knitter. I expected the swatch to come out at 6 1/2 to 7 inches. When I pinned it out smaller, though, the whole thing bubbled up like a parachute before it settles to the ground.

Let me take a moment to note the clever construction. While on the needles, the stitches are arranged so that the corners grow in the middle. Once bound off, they revert to their proper place. This means no wrestling with yo's at each needle switch, for which I wish to give Larissa Brown and Shelley Mackie my most heartfelt thanks.

What I'm itching to get my hands on, though, is the right blue for Marco's seamless sweater. A search through my local yarn stores has come up empty. My on-line attempts haven't fared so well, either. Ages and ages ago, we bought this yarn from (I think) Yarn Country, expressly for this project. It's lived happily in the stash, knowing it had a purpose. I cast on a few weeks ago and received a nasty shock. The heather in this blue is purple, but one that veers perilously close to what, in my old Crayola crayon box, was called magenta.

I did a guy check. My fears were confirmed. The verdict: "Marco doesn't need any more excuses for someone to make fun of him." I take that to mean the yarn is too girly. Maybe I'll make it into a sweater for Clare, in retaliation since she had the nerve to felt her Perfect Sweater.

The search continues. I've turned up yarn that is too pale, too grey, not heathered, too green. Meanwhile, however, my desire to knit a sweater needs immediate attention. The surprise benefit of this quest is the yarn I found for Marc's sweater, Cascade 220 in 9409, Australian Nights. Tricia at Nana's Knitting pulled out color cards for me. I was woefully indecisive about the blue for Marco's, but this was exactly what I wanted for my first cardigan.

I'm wound and ready to swatch. I really want to cast on. Do you think measuring one of his sport jackets will yield the right dimensions?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In which I explain how appearances are deceiving

We used to have this educational computer program called "Math Blasters." The boys were especially fond of the part that was supposed to teach addition. Whenever they gave an answer that was too low, the computer would tell them, "Not enough! More, more, MORE!" They loved the response so much, they would try to get the wrong answer, which rather defeated the purpose.

I've been hearing echoes of Math Blaster in my mind's ear of late. It's provided the rallying cry for my new attitude toward sock yarn. I hope you all appreciate what an about face this is for me. Despite that collection pictured a couple of posts back, I just don't have enough for the Barn-raising Quilt, especially once you dissect it (the pile, not the project). Poor me. I am sadly sock yarn deficient.

This yarn, for example, my splurge from Stitches Midwest this year. Sock weight, according to the label, but on the heavier end. I have sweater quantities of these two. I realize I'm not willing to risk running short because I've sewn them into a blanket.

Then there's the 7 Deadly S(p)ins yarn. I don't know what I'm going to do about these. Now that I have a sock yarn project, I have to face the fact that my objections run deep. These colors leave me considerably less than enthused. One might say, unmoved.

These would have complimented my "Francie" doll wonderfully, had I been knitting back when I had a "Francie" doll. The harsh reality is that the colors of my youth are no longer my colors of choice, and while I had hoped to convince myself to work these in, it's not going to happen.

The Schaefer Anne of mysterious dye-lot is too thin. It really wants to be knit up on US 1's. I know, because I tried. The jury is still out on the Lorna's Laces, but I think it may be the wrong weight as well. The original Barn-raising Quilt used the full spectrum of sock yarn colors and weights, but I have neither Larissa's artistic vision, nor the 500 knitters contributing squares.

Which leaves me with this, the yarn I purchased for the Rovaniemi fingerless mitts, before I chickened out, got back in touch with reality, came to my senses, reconsidered the wisdom of striking out on that particular project at my current skill level. Six skeins (I have two of the blue)? As the Math Blaster said, "Not enough!"

When I had an unexpected window of free time with Marco, what else could I do but haul him out to String Theory?

I'll call it a birthday present.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Extending My Sphere of Influence

It is a fact of nature. If there isn't snow on the ground on my birthday, it will snow. Hitherto, I thought the law only applied to Chicago.

East Anglia, United Kingdom, March 2008

Apparently it extends to anywhere I have immediate family.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Knitalongs and Mason-Dixon are inextricably linked in my mind. I first signed up to Blogger so I could post to the M-D KAL blog. Since the ball-band dishcloths and linen hand towels, there have been the recent afghan-along, the Perfect Sweater, the mitered squares and the bubbly curtain, though I've never touched denim yarn.

Despite that, or maybe because of it, I had Knitalong in my hands last week and left it at the bookstore. I only looked at the first and last few pages and decided I already knew about knitalongs and who would publish a whole book about them anyway. Dismissed it out of hand. I didn't even see the patterns.

I should have expected the book to show up on Mason-Dixon. I left Kay's post with a new knitting necessity, the certainty that I needed to knit the pillow from Knitalong. Down the dusty roads and long ago I convinced the Master of my Division that a year of "Japanese Literature in Translation" fulfilled my Non-Western Civilization requirement. I had to read Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book for the course. There you are. Kismet. Without Kay, I would have missed it.

Yesterday, I set out for the book and the materials for the pillow. This time, I took a good look. In that twisty way things have, I found that the pillow was merely the goad, a way-sign, the project meant to pique my interest enough to get me to buy the book. Today I'm even more excited about the Barn Raising Quilt.

It's squares. It fills the small project niche that is perpetually empty and that I try to fill with sweater sleeves and fingerless mitts. It 's a new skill: increasing to knit flat on four needles.

Best of all it uses sock yarn.

Not enough for an afghan perhaps, but I have begun to wonder what I'm going to do with the stuff. No matter how often I've feebly tried to convince myself that "maybe, someday," it's not like I'm going to make, you know, actual socks.

I know what Marc can bring me back from England, though.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

If you do something more than once

It's a tradition.

We have these wonderful friends whose children are about 5 to 8 years older than our crew. Back when ours were still pretty little and theirs were entering adolescence, they gave us some advice. As each child reached 13, the same-sex parent should take them on a one-on-one trip to the destination of their choice. The idea was, when in the throes of the tempests and turmoil of adolescence, we would have something to look back on. At the time, 13 for any of our children seemed fair and far off, so the idea got filed in the back of our minds and we tripped along our merry way, raising our three as best we could (our best being nothing to sneeze at).

Time, in that way it has, passed. The year Clare turned 13, one of the bar organizations sponsored a trip to London. Our friends' advice pushed its way into the front of our minds; suddenly it was do-able. Clare and I went off to the UK. We had 10 days. It was amazing. Now, I don't know that Clare's adolescence was a joyful experience, at least as far as our relationship was concerned, because of that trip. It could have been coincidental, not causal. Still, John turned 13 in September.

His sweater is in his backpack.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Inundated. A photo essay with commentary

Sweet angels of mercy. Post once to the Zimmermaniacs and they arrive in droves (well, compared to the traffic this blog usually generates). I'm all for pandering to the audience's interests. How about some more pictures? I took these to help me through the next sweater, but maybe they would be helpful to someone else?

The first saddle completed and half the stitches bound off, ready to continue on with the shirt-yoke.

Since I cast on 220 stitches, I ended up with 37 stitches across the saddle. I bound off 18 and knit on the remaining 19. The theory was based on Knitting Workshop for the percentages (cast off 50%) and Knitting Without Tears for the method. In KWT Elizabeth, working with a 200 stitch cast on, ended up with 33 stitches, bound off 16 and knit across the remaining 17. I followed the principle, if not the actual numbers.

The completed shirt-yoke.

I know, I know. I'm tragically stitch marker dependent. The round ones help me keep my count straight. The over-designed safety pin type marked where I needed to stop knitting each part of the yoke, two each (one for the front and one for the back) for the first saddle, the yoke itself and the second saddle.

The view from my needles with the 2nd saddle completed. The cable from my circulars served as a holder for the stitches destined to form the front of the neckline while I worked back and forth on the saddles and the yoke with the needles proper.

The stitches lined up on my needles ready for grafting. Right before I decided to throw caution to the winds, trust Elizabeth and the stickiness of Cascade 220, and take the needles out to weave the live stitches.

Is that enough? I probably have more.

I just realized, given the color of the sweater, this makes a most appropriate post for St. Patrick's Day. In the spirit thereof let me say, "May those who love us, love us. And those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts. And if he can't turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, and we'll know them by their limping."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Finished (But Big.)

Yes, really all done. Ends woven and trimmed. Dunked and soaked and rolled in a towel and laid out on the dining room table, that is, blocked (and Big).

100% complete finished. (See? Big.)

It doesn't get any more over with than this. (Undeniably Big.)

So what am I going to do next?

Well, not go to Disneyland.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Perfection Is in the Eye of the Beholder

It's off the needles. In fact, I cast off yesterday. It's not blocked, and the ends aren't sewn in (frog a few times and the glamour of weaving in as you go wears off), but it's knit.

It's also big, definitely big. I took one look at the finished sweater and started planning to rip out the ribbing and hem it instead. He's gotten tall, but not that tall. He hasn't broadened out yet, either. In other words, he's still shaped like a plank, all vertical. This, I think, contributed to the whole sleeves knit for someone whose knuckles drag on the floor issue. As it is now, the width that will eventually be taken up through the shoulders effectively adds to the extra length knitted into the sleeve.

Details, statistics, observations, whatever:

Pattern: Seamless Shirt-yoke Sweater by way of the Seamless Yoke Sweater, through the Saddle Shoulder and Hybrid Sweaters from Knitting Without Tears and Knitting Workshop.

Yarn: Cascade 220, The Heathers in 9411, Olympic Rain Forest.

Needles: Size US8/5mm Addi Turbos, 16"/40 cm, 24" /60 cm (which were a mistake and were replaced with) 32" /80 cm lengths.

Gauge, 4.75 stitches/6 rows per inch.

Elizabeth says to knit the sweater on 24" circulars. Between the extra stitches and my odd knitting style, I popped stitches off the tip of my left needle like a bagel pops poppy seeds. After about the third or fourth time of not catching this until 3 or 4 rows after the fact (No, I don't know how I missed it, I just did. Idiot knitter, remember?), I switched to the longer needles. I love my crochet hooks, but don't want them as constant companions when I'm knitting.

Grafting is way easier off the needles.

I'm delighted with whatever combination of chance and careful planning led to the saddle decreases merging so perfectly with the neck ribbing.

I had no idea before that if you slip two stitches knitwise as a unit, you get a different looking decrease than if you slip them one by one before you knit the next stitch and pass the slipped stitches over, but you do. Treating them as a single stitch meant all the decreases formed this lovely chain from the double decreases at the front and back yoke through the single decreases along the saddles and shirt yoke.

Knitting Workshop is right, the Cast-On Cast Off is incredibly stretchy, works wonderfully well with ribbing and is just like doing outline stitch. Plus, all the edges match, and I'm kind of persnickety about that.

One of the advantages of being a research-oriented person (which is what I call all the compulsive back-and-forthing from book to DVD to book to website back to book, etc., ad infinitum, I do when I'm learning a new pattern), is that going back to original documents sometimes gets you a seeming random, unimportant bit of information that you find you're glad to have at a later point in the project. On the Knitting Workshop DVD, Elizabeth let drop the value of a Ktbl,P ribbing. This is the ribbing the designer used for the Victoria Fingerless Mitts, and, while I obediently followed the pattern, I wondered what the point was. According to Elizabeth, it will keep its elasticity better than regular K1P1 ribbing. I wish I had known that at the start. I would have used it for the cuffs as well as the neck and bottom borders.

I asked John to do a final size check. He didn't take it off until he went to bed, hence its current unblocked, loose-end state. He likes it long. No, he doesn't want me to change the ribbing. It's exactly how he imagined it. I call that a perfect fit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Definitely Not Envy

Remember that yarn club I joined? The one I justified as an early birthday present? The one that promised we wouldn't be knitting just socks? (Well, that's how I interpreted, "Want something different than just the regular sock club shipment every other month?") The first shipment arrived yesterday. Guess what? It's socks. In fact, one could even say, it's all about socks.

I've already lost the pattern, but the idea is that you knit through the progression of colors, half a skein for each sock, I presume. It's a very clever and creative idea. Were I at all, even remotely, sock-inclined, I would probably be awash in admiration.

This month's sin is Gluttony. I'm clean on this one.

Monday, March 10, 2008


[Well, that was instesting. Blogger ate my pictures. Let's try that again, shall we?]

Guess what this is?

Yup. The ribbing around the bottom of John's sweater. If you look hard, there in the back is the completed ribbing for the neckline border. To the left in the picture, the grafted underside of a sleeve.

I even think I did a better job joining the shirt yoke to the second saddle.

Posted by Picasa

Of course, maybe I think that because this time it ended up on the same side as the sweater pictured in Knitting Workshop.

[Well, that mostly worked. Thanks and a hat tip to Picasa.]

Friday, March 07, 2008


There's the Mary Ellen Carter ("those who loved her best and were with her to the end will see the Mary Ellen Carter rise again"*).

The University of Chicago seal (I vaguely remember it has something to do with the university arising out of the ashes of a struggling Baptist college, with the help of John D. Rockefeller and Marshall Field).

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ("from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success"**).

John's Shirt-Yoke Hybrid Sweater.

It's astonishing how much faster it goes when I'm not wringing my hands. Not poring endlessly over Knitting Without Tears and Knitting Workshop (Elizabeth has a much higher opinion of my knitting ability than I do). Not frantically leafing through every other Elizabeth Zimmermann book I own. Not running and re-running the DVDs. Not surfing the Zimmermaniacs and the rest of the Internet for reassurance.

We have a dictum in here Chez WoolGathering (It's right up there with "Never say 'goodbye' without saying 'I love you'" in the Rule Book): mistakes are only bad if you didn't learn anything. I'm keeping careful count, one might even say scrupulous count. Eschewing exciting and absorbing movies. Trying not to succumb to the "been there, done that" mindset (hubris, hubris). Checking and double checking the decrease points. Doing the decreases correctly (I think) this time.

I think I'll name the sweater. It's Fawkes.

*"The Mary Ellen Carter," Between the Breaks, 1979, Stan Rogers .
**"The Roses of Success," Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Soundtrack, 1968, Robert B. And Richard M. Sherman.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

If Wishes Were Beggars

I wish I had figured out years ago that purling is knitting. I wish I had a deep and vast knowledge of knitting founded on decades of experience. I wish that I could find the one other idiot knitter out there. Most especially, at least at the moment, I wish I knew how to measure sleeves. You may think this looks like a nearly completed sweater. Were I knitting for an orangutan, you'd be right. That was then.

"Then" was this morning, with the sweater discarded on the dining room table. That would be the morning after last night, when I made John submit to a fitting. I thought I was checking that the neckline wasn't too high.

Understand, I meant the sleeves to be long. I had John try on just the sleeves, checked the length and added the couple inches I hoped would make the sweater wearable for more than this one Spring. I checked them again before I joined them to the body. Whatever doubts and fears I harbored about the fit of this sweater, they weren't about the length of the sleeves. The one thing (two things?) I thought I could count on to be right was (were?) the sleeves. They are, however, about three inches longer than the long I intended them to be. Even with the cuff folded up they come down to mid knuckle. Where I thought my cephalopodic fears were based on the floppy and unwieldy body, they were, in point of fact, based on the length of the arms, I mean, sleeves. Further, they weren't cephalopodic, they were simian.

I am trying to console myself. I didn't like the double decreases anyway. Well, that and they were wrong.

This is due to my apparent irradicable inability to slip a stitch knit-wise. My consistency in slipping stitches purl-wise meant I intended to call these a design feature, an innovation, even. Now, I have been given the "insurmountable opportunity" (thank you, Pogo) to do them right, or at least differently. Because this is now.

Horses would ride.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Well, I'll Be

That's better, more like the design flaw it was intended to be.

At least, I think that's better. Don't you?

And speaking of remarkable recoveries.

Maybe it was an omen?

Monday, March 03, 2008

19 Lousy Stitches

Something happened to the yoke. I don't want to point fingers, but I suspect it had something to do with Mr., Mrs., or Lord Kitchener. You know, whichever one invented the stitch. Such a simple little stitch -- into one, out the next and into one, out the next -- yet somehow I managed to make half (half?) the graft look like garter stitch. I've been at this for hours now. I don't remember whether that was my 2nd or 3rd attempt. Somewhere along the line, I got the Kitchener part right, but did something untoward to the yoke itself. Perhaps on the 3rd or 4th attempt?

I think this is rather more of a blemish than Elizabeth Zimmermann had in mind when she warned of the "Schoenheitsfehler," as there is no beauty in it whatsoever. I thought I could sneak in 3 little duplicate stitches to hide whatever it was that happened.

At one point, I determined to ignore it and pick up the stitches for the neckline. It was the spasm in my fingers every time I passed the join that made me decide I'd have to rip, not just the neckline stitches, but the last 6 to 10 rows of the yoke itself.

Do I have to mention that I ripped the wrong half of the yoke the first time?