Thursday, December 31, 2009


"Auntie Hannah, who liked port. . . ."

"Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year."

"Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine. . . ."

Guess what we named our Christmas tree this year?

All quotes from Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales," 1955.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Second Gift of Christmas

This is (was?) the second thing I worked on (on which I worked?) (tenses and prepositions are clearly not my friends today). I know I didn't tell you about it. I was supposed to, last week, which we are all pretending is this week. You know, when I was supposed to be blogging every day.

This is the Quilted Cowl by Sarah Anthony. Once you knit the center section, you pick up stitches all around for the stockinette border, yo k2tog for a picot row, knit some more stockinette and then, using At Least a Six Foot Tail (!) sew down the live stitches. This makes for a lovely understated border, but I have to use Six Feet of yarn to Sew Down almost 200 Live Stitches.

Suffering from an acute case of Swelledheaditis Flushed with the success of the Leaf Lace Scarf, I just couldn't leave this one alone either.

This change, though, was just plain laziness and cheating, (and it showed, but I'm getting ahead of the story). I did a few rows of garter stitch and added the picot bind-off from Louisa Harding's Knitting Little Luxuries (the bind-off for the fingerless mitts I screwed up, see earlier post) to three of the sides, thinking to keep a cleaner look down the front of the cowl (or so I told myslef). Except I didn't like that end. So I went ahead and did the picot bind-off. The picots were too close together. They also looked huge.

There was another issue. Garter stitch is wider than stockinette and, because I didn't adjust the number of stitches I picked up, the edges were distorted. I tired to rationalize. It's really only the buttonhole end I need to worry about. I muttered. The other end will be hidden. I justified. The long edges don't look that bad. I whined. Maybe if I just frog the bind-off on that one end and space the picots out farther.

This was clearly a case where the original design was way better than the modification. At the time (late November/early December) I decided I wasn't going to re-do it unless by some miracle I finished all my knitting by the week before Christmas. No such miracle occurred, but I still ripped out the bind-off. All of it. In fact, I frogged the whole modification, reclaimed the yarn and knit the border according to pattern, sewing down the live stitches as called for before reblocking.

Details. Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino in Burgundy, almost exactly 1 skein. Just a few feet left.
Needles: Addi Turbos US 6/4 mm.
Buttons: Darn. I forgot to take a picture wth the real buttons. They were pewter with a circle of tiny ivy leaves. I really wanted to gloat about the buttons. Double darn.
Modifications: Not a one.

Sometimes the designer is right.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The First Gift of Christmas

We'll start with this one, because I have the most pictures of it.

At the time, the plan was No Modifications. Knit the thing as written. And I meant to. I really did. I knew the whole less-than-3-skeins-per-gift thing would work a lot better if I didn't keep changing things. I fell off that particular wagon almost immediately.

It all started Thanksgiving afternoon when I thought I had just about finished Gift Number 1, the Teva Durham Leaf Lace Scarf. According to the pattern, you're supposed to knit 1 leaf, pick up 9 stitches (even though you've only got 7 to work with), knit [12 rows stockinette, 6 rows garter] 5 times and finally knit the other leaf. Just because I didn't like the way the whole 7 into 9 thing on the pick-up row looked -- especially when compared to the leaf that just flowed out of the neckband knitting -- was that any reason to decide to knit two halves from the center out?

And just because 5 repeats didn't give me a scarf long enough to wrap twice around, was that a good excuse to knit a longer neckband? Okay, maybe that was a good excuse. This is Chicago and a 3-inch wide scarf isn't enough to keep anybody's neck warm. I got gauge, but the scarf wasn't going to make it around twice. I still can't figure out how she managed it in the one photo. That, and I really didn't care for the dangling dead-leaf look that resulted from just tying the ends (see other pattern photo).

Details. Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino in Teal Feather, double-stranded.
Needles: Addi Turbos, US 13/9 mm needles.
Modifications: Provisional cast-on, worked from the center out, two additional repeats of the neckband pattern (one on each end), 9 stitches to Kitchener. (Why does Kitchener stitch make no sense to me when I try to do it with the yarn on the needles, but is a piece of cake when the work is off?)

One of the fastest knits I've ever come across. Even after completely reworking it, it only took a day. Sometimes the designer is wrong. Sometimes you have to jump off a wagon before it gets up too much momentum.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Time Consumed

Um. Well. Hi there. Remember me? I used to post faithfully to this site. With pictures and everything.

I know, I know. I was supposed to spend these weeks telling you about my less than 3 skeins projects. Sorry, sorry. You know what, though? I kept taking pictures. See (just to whet your appetite) (and to give you an idea of my astonishing gift for chaos)?

The less than 3 skeins plan worked so well, I added a project.

Then I added another.

I had plans for a fourth, but wiser heads (Clare's and Marc's) prevailed. I suspect they tied my hands together while I slept, just in case I decided to try sleep-knitting.

So. I move we wind the calendar back, pretend this is the week before Christmas, and I'll try to get caught up before New Year (or maybe a little after it, you know, on those days when you still write 2009 instead of 2010).

Before I bend the space-time continuum to my will though, let me say, I hope your Hanukkah/Solstice/Christmas/Kwanzaa celebration was/is smashing. And I'll tell you all about the fun I had with project number 1 tomorrow.

Or maybe the next day.

Monday, December 07, 2009

For Everything There is a Reason*

or Eternity in 482 Stitches. Or, Why I Hate the Backward Loop Cast-on.

I've started my procrastination project. It's the largest of the Christmas knitting, requiring 3 skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino. It's the Theory Shawlette by Sadie and Oliver. According to the designer, it is "sweetly simple" and (all evidence to the contrary) (here's the part I fell for) "a quick project with a delightful result."

I ask you, how could any project requiring a 482 stitch cast-on be considered quick? I don't really care that you bind off 320 stitches at the get-go. You have to bind them off of a backwards loop cast-on edge. Backwards loop cast-on, where if a cast-on stitch slips off your needle, you're left with nothing but a length of yarn to tell you if you've lost one. Or six. Backwards loop cast-on, the one where you have to keep your needles close together and your stitches near the tips, practically guaranteeing popped stitches, or you end up with an ever increasing float that you then need to try to work back into the piece. Requiring 480 stitches of backwards loop cast-on is an invitation to disaster.

The backwards loop cast-on, however, is so important to the design that there's actually a link to demonstrating it included in the pattern. I figured this was one time when I probably shouldn't exercise creative license.

Which brings us to the first row of knitting. The part where I discover that I apparently interpret BO stitches to count from the first stitch you slip over, and the pattern counts the stitch that does the slipping. Bottom line, I'm supposed to end up with 2 knitted stitches between every swoop of 4 bound off stitches, except unless I was paying really close attention, I kept counting "knit 1, bo 4" and using the K1 to bind off with. Every now and then I'd look back a few scallops and see a lone lorn knit stitch where there should have been two. Do you have any idea how unpleasant it is to un-bind-off a backwards loop cast-on? The only thing worse, I figured, was having to rip it out and start over.

Here's another wrinkle. I couldn't read the decreases. I don't know why I couldn't, but there it was. I couldn't figure out if what I had done balanced with what I had started with. I had no idea what I was supposed to end up with, only that given the pattern was one of those "repeat to end" kind, the work should have ended even.

Do you see the catastrophe looming here? Are you shuddering in anticipated dread?

Twenty-four stitch markers and several cups of coffee later, is anyone surprised to learn that I had extra stitches left? Or that I had no idea whether I had over-cast-on for stitches that had popped off my needle, or bound off a stitch too many a couple of times, or cast-on too few corrective stitches?

In needlepoint and counted thread work there are these things called "comp stitches." "Comp" for "compensating." You use them when the pattern doesn't fit the allotted space. I looked at those odd stitches. I contemplated the morning's worth of knitting that had resulted in one pathetic row. I considered the other household projects that had not even been approached. I decided comp stitches were the way to go.

After meditating on the instructions for the next two rows, at the end of which I am supposed to have 322 stitches, I figured out I should have had 80 swoops with two stitches between each swoop and two more stitches at the start of the row. I had 79 swoops. A lesser woman would have laid her head on the table and howled. I may have whimpered a bit.

Then I discovered the reason for the existence of the backward loop cast-on. Using the tail from the original cast-on, I cast on the additional stitches I needed, bound off 4 and knit 1. Just to make sure, I knit the next two rows exactly according to instruction.

Bingo, 322 stitches, and (insert heavy sigh) I'll never be allowed to malign the backwards loop again.

*Apologies to Ecclesiastes.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


That's the opposite of progress, right?

I have been composing a smug and snappy post in my head all week about how, despite the head-cold brought on (I am convinced ) by the longest period of sleep deprivation I have endured since dealing with newborns, I was just whizzing through the Christmas knitting.

Instead I have this.

"This" is what happens when you get to the bind-off stage and realize you have knit a pair of fingerless gloves for a mutant. Specifically one with two right hands.

I do have progress to share (later) (much later), but thought I'd make a flying visit tonight and get the-opposite-of-knitting post out of the way.