Friday, December 31, 2010

Never Did Run Smooth

No Christmas post?

No day after Christmas/Boxing Day/St. Stephen's Day (gloating) post?

No anniversary (33 years and counting) post?

I'll just have to write a last day of the year post. Closure and all that.

The variously named Grey/Gray/Eldest Nephew/Oldest Nephew Sweater did indeed get finished in time for the Great Gift Exchange on Christmas Eve. I even remembered to work in the phony seams.

The home stretch was not, however, without trauma.

Trauma #1. You'll just have to take my word for it. The trauma was so great I didn't photograph it. Despite all the careful measuring both with ruler and yardstick (because tape measures stretch and are therefore unreliable) and against the original sweater, despite having the Lord Protector stand in for fittings, despite previous experience with this yarn, when compared to the original sweater the finished object came out about 1/2 to 1 inch short in the body -- which I could have lived with (knitting stretches) -- and a good 3 inches (!) short in the sleeves. (I know. That was a dreadful sentence, both in form and content. Imagine the horror that must have engendered it.) A fitting on the Lord Protector -- forced into mannequin service as the only available young male -- was not reassuring. It didn't matter that my brain knew he is taller and stockier than the Eldest Nephew. I foresaw Christmas Sweater Disaster looming and wished I had heeded The Panopticon's video and bought the Eldest Nephew a new pair of roller skates.

At this point the Princess was sent off to Brooks Brothers for a gift card. Desperation, however, will drive one to any and all things; I went ahead and blocked the sweater.

Trauma #2. It blocked huge. Even huger than I had been expecting, given previous blocking experience.

Standing and staring in horror at the blocking board, I was irresistibly reminded of the "Useful presents" in "A Child's Christmas in Wales" where Dylan Thomas writes about "engulfing mufflers of the old coach days" and "zebra scarfs of a substance like sticky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes." The gift card was looking better all the time.

Trauma #3. No photograph here either, but The Cat, apparently compulsively drawn to a sweater so near to her own coloring, and at that time desperately in need of having her claws trimmed (see where this is going, do you?), not only nested on the sweater over-night, but managed to catch a single stitch on her claw. I cannot begin to express the panic. I was clearly not nearly as wedded to the idea of the gift card as I thought I had become.

Factor in my apparent complete inability to make a square into a circle (neckline) and the resulting gaping stitches where the corners had been. These had only been exacerbated when the Lord Protector did the fitting thing. The incredible stretching properties of the wet yarn had done nothing to improve matters.

There I was on December 23rd, I think I can safely say, not rejoicing. This does not mean, however, that my ability to deny reality was in any way diminished. In a mind-boggling episode of "wishing will make it so," I threaded up my Chibi and started weaving in ends. Which led to my final burst of creativity and decision to reinforce the stress points (the grafting under the arms, the corners of the neckline) and, while I was at it, to duplicate stitch over the Cat Disaster and several stitches beyond.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Otherwise there is no way that all of this should have resulted in a wearable sweater. The weaving in and reinforcing worked. The sweater pulled in some while it dried. I handed it over on Christmas Eve, along with the original and a sweater shaver (because the yarn is so soft, it pills if you look at it cross-eyed). It is a little big. I'll say I made it that way on purpose in case he ever wants to wear it over a button-down shirt.

Oh, and those 3-inches-too-short sleeves?

The sweater didn't pull in that much.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Day at the Races

I am prey to two mutually exclusive but nonetheless compelling convictions.

The first is that the eight decreases every other row necessary for raglan sleeves are way too many decreases in much too short a space and will result in a sweater fit only for the victims of head-shrinking tribes.

The other is that there is no way that that there are enough decreases close enough together to get to the 10 shoulder stitches Elizabeth Zimmermann says will mark the point where I can begin to shape the neck without knitting the most enormous sweater known to man.

Furthermore, (because things weren't interesting enough), I have to knit really fast, otherwise I fear I will run out of the remaining new, unused, pristine yarn (I have 3 full skeins of 136 yards each and some random bits) and therefore have to unravel and reclaim the vast quantities used up to knit the deliberate and accidental swatches.

Today, I'm going for the win. I'm jut not sure which one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Also procrastination. More on that later in the post.

While the truism states that one picture is worth a thousand words, the picture of the gray sweater clearly did not convey the right thousand. Joining the sleeves to the body on Friday was the goal, not the reality. In point of fact, the goal didn't have a more than a nodding acquaintance with reality. As of the last post I had 2 to 3 inches of knitting left on the body and a good 5 to 6 inches on each sleeve (the Eldest Nephew is strappy, not stunted).

Back on Tuesday, when I started this post (which means I had figured out another good word for the title), I had achieved the necessary for the sleeves, but still had a good 10 to 12 rows to slog through for the body (my theory is that it's a lot harder to knit big tubes than it is to knit small ones).

Now, however, the pieces really are ready to be joined and instead of brewing a fresh cup of coffee, grabbing my copy of EZ's Knitting Workshop and getting on with it, I'm over here at the computer, delaying.

Admittedly, it's a new computer -- very nice, with none of the odd behaviors the old one had developed after the poor thing's recovery from viral onslaught. Further, I could argue that posting to the blog is at least related to knitting (as opposed to playing multiple games of Mahjong Titan). Christmas, however, is not going to hold itself back until I finish the Gray Sweater.

And knitting hats for the Pirate and the Lord Protector won't do much to delay it, either.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Don't you just love a good word? My online dictionary and thesaurus tell me that hoary can mean "ancient" or "antediluvian," "belonging to, existing, or occurring in times long past," "gray or white with age." Dust-covered, in fact. It can also mean just plain gray. So appropriate to everything I have to write about.

To clear the air, let me state that the red scarf is languishing (read: dead in the water), the green sweater in all knit up (and has been for a couple weeks now), and I seem to have lost the blue sweater. Neither sweater has its (their?) ends sewn in. I suppose it goes without saying that they're not blocked, either, but I'll say it anyway: They're not blocked, either. Just in case you were wondering. That's all old news, though. Hoary with age, in fact.

Since the a4A deadline isn't until after Christmas, and I haven't a prayer of finishing the Red Scarf, I'm not going to worry about them for now. (Thank heavens for a knitting daughter who sent her red scarf off last week -- I think she posted a picture on Ravelry, though I'm not sure -- the OFA hasn't been completely frozen out.) Now I'm all about Christmas. Which might not strike you as a hoary topic until you are informed that new Christmas knitting is on a determined hold until old Christmas knitting, a.k.a, the Gray Sweater, is finished. And there you have hoary on multiple levels.

I am supposed to be inspired to knit feverishly so I can move on to other projects. So what if two of those projects are another sweater and an afghan? Once the gray sweater is done, I plan to allow myself to intersperse small knitting projects with the large. So many rounds of a sweater done? Maybe I'll knit a hat to match one of the scarves I gave last year. A nice swathe cut through the afghan knitting? Perhaps I'll cast on for that neck gaiter for the brother who was so taken with the one I knit for his wife. Serious progress on a sleeve? Well, there is that other brother who was supposed to get a scarf last year but didn't. Let's not forget to factor in a serious cold snap here in the Midwest and my sons' need for hats.

I'm noticing a pattern here. I think I can safely say that all of my knitting plans have their origins in events occurring in times long past. None of them are going to happen, though, if I don't get cracking on that sweater for the Oldest Nephew. I've set today as the day I join the sleeves to the body. Once I shake the dust of neglect off and do that, perhaps then it will again only be hoary because of the color.

Don't you just love a good word?