Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where The Week Went

Poor me. I had to buy more yarn. It couldn't be helped. For all the reasons given previously, I have to knit myself a scarf. The scarf turned out to be a shawlette, but let's not quibble.

I will confess to a certain measure of relief when I opened the box and found two skeins that seem rather more nearly related to each other than the previous pair. Siblings rather than cousins. Third cousins twice removed on their stepmother's side at that.

The basic plan remains the same, use the browner of the two for the body of the shawl, the one with more green for the leaves. This time, I 'm hoping that there's enough green in the brown and brown in the green that the edging and the shawl will look like they belong together, rather than have been mistakenly knit together in the dark from two different and antagonistic projects. I feel some little anxiety over this, so this time I wound them both up.

I begin to relax. Wound up, I'm having a hard time determining which is which. I''m going for the yarn on the right for the leaf edging.

I am particularly reassured when I compare the former leaf skein of yarn (there, at the top) with the new.

Ah. You are wondering why I needed two skeins. Why I didn't just buy one, or, if I needed the security net of choice, why I didn't just pick the greener one and start knitting the edging. Why I'm starting over.

There's a saying. Something about being so sharp you cut yourself. Which, one would think, would make one pay attention to the implicit corollary: be careful. Time for a session of "Because I'm Too Clever For My Own Good."

I really liked the yarn over and turn method for working short-rows that Sadie and Oliver introduced me to with the Theory Shawlette. They use it for garter stitch. I tried to adapt it for stockinette.

It didn't work (see the holes?).

I want the shawlette now. I did originally buy two new skeins with the idea that it would increase my chances of knitting a compatible border. Once I faced up to the holes that mark the short-row shaping, though, I knew was going to have to frog nearly the whole thing anyway, since the short rows begin immediately after the garter stitch border. Let me repeat, I want this shawlette Now. As in Promptly. Immediately. Forthwith. So much so that I didn't want to wait to reclaim the yarn. I figured, eh, might as well start over, and if I use the new yarn, I can start right away.

I'll just keep telling myself it's not lost time, it's a chance to knit some more.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Then Again, Maybe Not

Ah, the sad disconnect between theory and practice.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On the Twentieth Day of Christmas

It's all about me. I need a scarf. I've come up with myriad justifications for this. Among them:

1) Knitting all those neck-warmers and shawlettes awoke a strong, one might even say compelling, desire for one of my own.

2) For the first time in years, my winter jacket isn't black. It's sort of rust. Okay, it's dirty orange. I don't know what I was thinking. Bottom line, none of my winter scarves, which are by and large red or red and black, do anything but argue -- violently -- with my coat.

3) I've lost my Scribble Scarf.

4) If I'm replacing a lost scarf, it's necessary knitting, not self-indulgent knitting. Chicago is cold in January.

5) I've knit and ripped cables out of Their Father's sweater and now have to rethink the whole thing. I want to avoid this let this ferment in my back-brain for a while.

6) I got this awesome yarn from the Magi on the 12th day of Christmas. I was so eager to start knitting that I forgot to take a yarn pr0n photo while it was all still skeined up.

Handmaiden Lady Godiva in Woodland from Eat.Sleep.Knit.

I know what your thinking, because I thought it, too. That looks like some serious variation between skeins, even for a hand-dyed. I posit, though, that it will be perfect for the pattern I've picked out. The Cedar Leaf Shawlette from Never Not Knitting. Reading through the pattern, it says to knit the shawl body using one skein, then knit on the leaf border using a new skein. I'm using the predominantly brown for the body and plan to use the predominantly green/blue for the leaves.

You know, I'm beginning to think I can keep this Christmas thing going for as long after Christmas as the retail establishment does before.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Still Christmas Here

Back before Christmas was determined by retail, the season ran until February 2, the feast of Candlemas. In years when all my Christmas decorations aren't blocked by the construction required to repair collateral damage after broken pipes are replaced, the lights stay up in our windows until then. Under the circumstances -- that is, lacking the lights -- I feel perfectly justified in gloating posting about the presents I received, extending the season here, even this far into January.

All my knitting presents came from The Princess* this year. The best first. I have hand-knit socks. This is actually the perfect gift for someone who hates sock-knitting. I will never, ever make a pair for myself. Ever.

Now I trot over ice-cold floors in the morning or sit in draughts on purpose. Sometimes I prop my feet up on a hassock and stop knitting just to admire them. The socks. I stop to admire the socks.

We have a system for Christmas shopping at Stitches Midwest. After we linger over yarns and books, or admire clever gadgets, or ooh and aah and laugh, one of us will send the other away. We are to assiduously avoid whatever vendor's space the other occupies, no matter how exhaustively we had inventoried their wares. We rendezvous elsewhere in The Market, delivering firm instructions to "Act surprised." The delay between Stitches and Christmas, coupled with my aging brain, means I, at least, don't have to act.

Highlighter tape, because I so often knit from charts these days. A shawl pin, because she is firmly convinced I will finish those two shawls I haven't been knitting posting about. And stitch markers. She calls the set on the card "Dinner Time" and the set on the knitting "Revenge" (or maybe "Payback").

The knitting there? You're wondering about the knitting? Other than the fact that it provided an excuse to use most of my gifts, that's another post. Or two.

I can't help it. I have to post another picture of The Socks.

So fabulous.

*It's been pointed out to me that I probably should be using nick-names. While I can't completely undo what's been done, the three (in order of age) will hereinafter be referred to as The Princess, the Pirate and the Lord Protector; titles bestowed by their Father in their youth.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Some Projects Are Like That

They haunt your sleep. Creep into the unguarded corners of your consciousness. Hang over your head like Damocles' Sword and weigh down your neck like the Ancient Mariner's Albatross. Suck the joy right out of the project your working on, since you're not working on them. They are the knitting promises. The ones you made when you were full of hope and enthusiasm. Specifically, the ones I promised to someone else (I can always get out of promises I make to myself).

The winner of the longest runner? The pink Victoria Fingerless Mitts from Louisa Harding's Knitting Little Luxuries. Debuting here on 12/10/08, they disappeared on 12/26/08, not to reappear until almost a year later. Not a happy day Chez WoolGathering.

Curiously, the same day the mitts disappeared, these made their first appearance. These are the Golightly Gloves from Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines.

I managed to take a bit of humorous, one might even say quirky, knitting and turn it into possibly the single-most obnoxious gift I've ever given. I'm not sure this is something to be proud of. It was adding that fuchsia stripe there that did it. Factor in that the gloves themselves are significantly longer than the (no longer available) Williams Sonoma gloves Kay used in The Book and I'm not even convinced I created a usable bit of quirky knitting.

It's some type of irony that the two most long-outstanding Christmas projects have no finished item photograph. That doesn't change the fact that now they're done. Bestowed. Out of the house and off my mind. All subsequent knitting can be done with a clear and untroubled conscience. I am free. Almost, I feel like Scrooge on Christmas morning after the ghosts are gone.

"Why were you beating your head against that wall?"

"It felt so good when I stopped."

(Is it just me, or did anyone else notice that both projects were pink and both involved hands. In more than the making, I mean. I may need to eschew all projects that intersect those two categories from now on.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

If Only

I decided it's a Foolery Friday.

Because we haven't had one in so-o-o-o-o long.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Last Gift of Christmas

This is the last one. Really. Completely out of sync with all the other knitting I did this past Christmas, but so much fun. I saw these - a long time ago. Possible in Vogue Knitting. Maybe in Knit Simple. Either way, I felt an immediate and over-powering need to possess them. All four of them. I had no idea why. No one in mind to gift them to. Not the kind of toy I'd risk hanging in my house, not with a cat to endanger it.

Then came this Christmas and I was stumped for a gift. I remembered being roughly the same age as the giftee and finding a similar toy in the gift store of the Museum of Contemporary Art. It travelled with me to college, hanging in an easily accessible place in all my dorm rooms. I brought it along to California and hung it in married student housing at Stanford. It came back to Chicago and hung in our first real apartment and then in the condo. It was done in by our first cat (surprise), who loved to swipe at anything that dangled. I brought similar toys home for the boys when Clare and I went to London. I argued that this proved, not that I am odd, but that the toy had longevity of appeal. It was a classic, just like Jacob's Ladder and Pecking Hen's.

Besides it was quick to knit and I figured I could include an iTunes gift card. She's a teenager, after all.

I'm not sure that it made much of a hit. I'm pretty certain she didn't realize that she had a haute couture toy, what with the hand knit dress and hand-crocheted beret. Note to self, even in sock yarn at small widths, stripes mean lots of ends to weave in.

Details: Les Enfants - Sabine. Kit from Bagsmith (hit the link above).
Yarn - Sock yarn included in kit.
Needles - US 2/2.75 dpns. Not because it's knit in the round. It isn't. I have no circulars or straights that small.

Modifications. Just one. The instructions for the beret tell you to turn the work (which means it's crocheted flat). They also recommend a hook too small for the yarn (US 0/2 mm). I'm sure it would have been a sturdy fabric, but the hat is decorative, not functional. It is truly annoying to do minute crochet when the hook can't hold the yarn. To then have to try to sew the tiny thing up is just not worth it. After the first attempt, where I learned all these lessons, I used a US 2/2.75 hook, crocheted in the round and stopped when the hat looked big enough.

Oh. She's a climber. You hang them from a hook (or have someone slip their thumb through the top loop), pull the strings alternately, and she climbs to the top bar. All the pieces you need are included. The assembly was simple. Most importantly, it worked. Clare and I tested it. Several times.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


First, the definition: "The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something." Which describes Christmas gift knitting to a T.

The Fourth Gift was supposed to be the end of it. A do-able series of small knitting projects that would gratify the recipients and give me something to feel productive about. All that accomplishment. All that anticipated praise. All about me.

For the next gift of Christmas I let myself play. I started with the Seaman's Scarf.

Well, no. Actually, Clare started with the Seaman's Scarf. That started me thinking, though. Why limit myself to knitting for females. Why limit myself to knitting for in-laws? I have plenty of other family members who A) don't have anyone to knit for them and B) for whom I haven't promised a sweater. (What I was really doing was looking for an excuse to knit a Seaman's Scarf.)

I didn't really want to knit it in garter stitch, though. I went to Myrna Stahman, she of Fenna shawl fame. She includes a wide selection of seaman's scarves. None of the patterns there quite did it for me, but she also includes a lovely section on how to modify the scarf. I did not, however, knit the scarf "Stahman style," which is from the middle down, graft the center stitches. After a fair bit of playing around, I ended up with a 5 by 1 rib surrounded by a moss stitch border.

I love it.

Details. Yarn: Madelintosh Worsted in Port. This is lovely stuff. So dark a wine it's almost black. About a skein and a half.
Needles: Addi turbos, US 8/5 mm.

Pattern: My own invention (I'm so proud). Simple, because the closer Christmas looms, the less I can keep in my head. As near as I can remember, I cast on 37 stitches. Starting with the moss/seed stitch border: Slip the first stitch purlwise, [K1, p1] across row to the last 2 stitches, k2, repeat for 8 rows.

Tail 1. Row 1 (RS): Slip first stitch purlwise, knit moss stitch border (k1,p1,k1,p1,k1) place marker, [purl 1, knit 5], repeat across to last 6 stitches, purl 1, place marker, 5 stitch moss stitch border beginning with a k1 and ending with k2.
Row 2 (WS) Slip first stitch purlwise, knit moss stitch border, slip marker, Knit the knit stitches, purl the purl stitches across, slip marker, knit moss stitch border ending with a K2. Repeat these two rows for about 15 - 18 inches (depending on how long you want your scarf.

Switch to ribbing for neck. Row 1(RS): Slip the first stitch purlwise, K4, p4, k4, p4, k3, p4, k4, p4, k5. Row 2 (WS): Slip the first stitch purlwise, purl the purl stitches, knit the knit stitches. (Note that it's not quite 4 by 4 ribbing, two of the 37 stitches are selvage stitches, leaving you with 35 pattern stitches, hence the K/P 3 in the center). Continue for 18 inches.

Tail 2. Resume tail pattern. Knit for 15 to 18 inches (so it matches the first tail). End with 8 rows of moss stitch. Bind off knit-wise.

At least, I think that's how it went. Maybe I'll try it again someday to make sure.


It wasn't the last gift either.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Fourth Gift of Christmas

Tudora is a pattern I've been wanting to knit since it first showed up on Knitty. I just didn't want to knit it for me. It certainly would have been a more sensible introduction to cabling than the eternal Not-Quite-A-Blessingway blanket. Back then, though, I was entirely too easily intimidated. Now, well, knitting intimidation is not an issue. With the plan to knit for the female "out"-laws I had the perfect excuse.

You wouldn't think it, but this required a lot of swatching. The pattern called for a "firm fabric." The recommended yarn was an aran weight tweed, gauge 18 stitches/4 inches, but knit for the pattern at a gauge of 22 stitches/4 inches. The Malabrigo Silky Merino wasn't going to work single stranded, not without some major pattern modifications and a lot more knitting. Having only achieved pattern modification success 50% of the time, and with Christmas doing that thing where it only gets closer, I chickened out opted to consider other methods. Double stranded on the recommended needle size still left me with too many stitches per inch, although with a fabric that was - firm. Not wanting to turn over a gift made of the knitting equivalent of cardboard, however, meant more playing with the yarn and pattern than I had allowed time for.

It was time well spent. Undeniably.

It was not the most interesting piece I've ever knit. Up until the last inch and a half or so it's basically a 4 by 4 rib rectangle with a cable twist every other rib. The fun started with the binding off of lots of stitches at a go to shape the piece. I especially liked the clever bit where you don't knit the last stitch in the row and then use it to slip over for the first bind-off of the next group. It made the shaped edge much smoother, with subtler changes in depth. Less like a flight of stairs.

Details. Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino in Topaz, double-stranded.
Needles: Addi turbos, US 7/4.5 mm.
Modifications: None.
Way cool button found at a new, improved, humongously expanded JoAnn Fabrics.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Go Back

I knew I had a picture with the buttons. Compare this with the version pictured here.

This is better. Much, much better.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Welcome 2010 and the Third Gift

The Quilted Cowl fiasco put the fear of the knitting gods into me. With one more gift committed to and two left-overs from last year's Christmas knitting, I decided it might be prudent to get started on the largest project: The Theory Shawlette. That of the 482 stitches worth of backwards loop cast-on. It was indeed the longest to knit in actual time. In relative time? Well, it was time-consuming, but in a good way. It sucked up time like a football player doing double sessions in August sucks up Gatorade. It didn't feel like it took a long time, the time it took was just kind of - intense.

Lots of paying attention. Lots of stitch markers. Lots of counting, re-counting and re-re-counting. Lifelines (note the plural). I remembered lifelines (I so didn't want to re-do that border. Do you have any idea what a pain it is to cast-off a backwards loop cast-on when you haven't actually knit any stitches into it?) And an almost obsessive checking for mistakes. All of which paid off. I didn't carry a single mistake into a subsequent row. For me? Or, more specifically, for me knitting lace? This was nothing short of miraculous.

Once I got rid of the lace part, I got to do the short-row part. Short rows can be gratifying, because you don't have to work the whole length of the piece. Further, the designer devised this ingenious method to avoid those gaps in the pattern that short rows sometimes leave you with. It wasn't wrap-and-turn/knit-the-wrap-together-on-the-next-row (which is the part about short rows that I am less than fond of), but it had the same effect. More like a yarn-over done at the end of one row with the k2tog on the next. It was worth buying the pattern just for that little innovation.

Finally, fairness compels me to admit that, while you could probably get a reasonably attractive border using a different cast-on, the backwards-loop created an elegant corded look to the border loops that couldn't be re-created with any other method. Sigh, another justification for its existence.

Details. Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino in Burgundy (for Marc's side of the family, so she'll never know I used the same yarn for a sister-in-law from my side).
Needles: Addi Turbo US 8/5mm (Throughout this Christmas knitting I had an astonishing ability to get gauge with the recommended needles. What was that about?)

Modifications: None.

You cannot conceive of my surprise when, with the last stitch bound off, I realized I, just maybe, just possibly, just might be willing to knit this again.

Happy New Year. Happy New Decade. Happy so much possibility.