Monday, July 22, 2013

It Worked

It's amazing what a difference the details make. 

From this (very generic, almost boy-like run of the mill dark red sweater)

to this.

Pattern: Arrowhead lace pattern from Nicki Epstein's Knitting Over the Edge (or Beyond the Edge) added to Knitting Pure and Simple's basic Children's Neckdown Pullover.
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Red Wine Heather.
Needles: Addi Turbo's, US 9 for body, US 7 for the edging and neckline.

Things I want to remember.
- I did fewer repeats for the sleeves than I did for the bottom, making a narrower edge.

- The pattern called for a multiple of 10 plus 1.  Since I knit it in the round, I could have skipped the plus 1. Since I didn't, one of the repeats has a two-row vertical bar instead of one-row.  It's at the side seam, so it's not that noticeable, but I wish I had paid attention sooner than I did (which was after I bound off).  

- The sweater ended with 138 stitches, so I knit a transition row on the smaller needles and increased 3 stitches evenly across the bottom edge. I decreased a couple stitches at the sleeves (and forgot to write down how many) on the theory that a closer cuff would be warmer than a looser one, and that the additional give in the lace pattern would still accommodate the widest part of the hand.  Since I could get my hand through, I figure it worked.

Don't get me wrong. I love the basic neckdown raglan sleeve child's sweater.  It's in the round, so it's mindless.  It's worsted weight yarn, so it's fast without looking clunky (an attribute of bulky wools, at least the way I knit them). The call, however, was for a pretty sweater. Basic just wasn't going to cut it.

The sweater is on its way, packed up with the last two pairs of socks The Princess knit.  The deadline is the end of the month, so it should get to a4A headquarters in plenty of time. 

Don't you just love details?

Monday, July 15, 2013


Or, What to Do When You're at Loose Ends.

Turns out I've been knitting all this time.  

When one is actually knitting (as opposed to surfing, scrolling, reading, flipping through books and magazines looking at pretty pictures and knitting accoutrements), once accumulates finished objects.

Sadly, once the knitting is done, there's all that other stuff (washing, blocking and sewing in the ends).
I had a very busy weekend.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Waking the Sleeping Giant

Speaking of unearthing. 

This all started over two years ago.  I had been wildly irresponsible, in a yarn-ish  sort of way, and bought an entire dyelot of Briar Rose Fibers Wistful and needed to justify it. I saw Spud Says Hi's  "Last Gasp of Winter" blanket, a.k.a. "Embellished Squares" (pattern is still here). It seemed ideal.  So what if hers was based on self-striping yarn and my yarn was merely variegated? It was beautifully variegated, so I told myself.  Besides, a pattern that increased every other row was guaranteed to ward off the bane of almost all varicolored yarn - pooling.

Well, we all know what happens to projects that start out with an excess of optimism and justification, and my blanket was not immune.  First, and very early on, came the part where I decided Spud knew something I didn't and I would need to find a way to break up the yarn into stripes.  I'm sure coming across Carol Sunday's yarn at Knitche had nothing to do with the decision.

All went swimmingly through the first 500 yard skein of Wistful.  And seemingly through almost all of the second, for that matter.  Which is when I took a good look at it and relearned the lesson of hand-dyed artisan yarn most emphatically.  The second skein, though equally beautiful, did not match the first and no amount of arguing would change that fact.

Disheartened, I set the blanket aside.  Every now and then, when tossing the stash or scrounging for a simple half-finished project, I would disturb the mammoth, sigh despondently, and move on.  I knew it would eventually need to be frogged, but it was a pretty good size.  Well, not to put too fine a point on it, it was huge. Massive. Gargantuan, even. We're talking 1000 yards of the Wistful and several hundred yards of various Sunday Knits solids.  Going forward seemed pointless, but going back was overwhelming, so it would sink back into the depths.

Periodically, I would try to devise clever and creative schemes for finishing it.  I could rip back the second skein, buy more Sunday knits fingering yarns in the solids that I used and double-strand to camouflage the visual discord.  I could rip it back and use the second skein for the border, trusting that the change from stockinette to garter-stitch would disguise the color change.  I would tell myself I could bind it off and give it away and whoever got it would just be stuck with the mismatched dyelots, too intimidated by the vast amount of knitting to do anything but drape it over a chair whenever I came visiting; it would at least be out of the house.

Imagine my surprise then, this past winter, when it broke surface again. I noticed what I had never noticed before.  By introducing the solid color contrasting stripes, I had separated the two skeins.  I had, in fact, already performed that sleight of hand that turned the not-quite-the same skeins into a design element. 

So I wound up the final 500 yard skein and I've been knitting away at that garter-stitch border (because I am not entirely confident that I will forgive this blanket for a third variation) ever since.

Leviathan that it is, rather than unearthing perhaps, like humpback whales,  it breached. Both the surface and my defenses.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Heart's Ease

We are and have been a cat family for thirty years.  We learned when our first cat died at the ripe old age (for a cat) of 15, that a cat-less household is lacking.  Basil was a purebred British Shorthair and the cat who saw us through our expansion from the birth of our first child to our last. When he died, we knew we wouldn't get another British Shorthair, but we still had small children who needed a stable, calm-demeanored, sweet-tempered cat.  So we went the purebred route again, this time with an American Shorthair and got Liz as a kitten.  When we went (to Kalamazoo) to pick her up, the breeder introduced us to Autumn, a mom-cat who was going to be retired from breeding.  Two weeks later we went back for her and became a two-cat household.

This was a mistake.

They never adjusted to each other.  Eight years of internecine warfare.  I found myself noting how few species of cats live in groups.  I would observe that cats are not pack animals. No one sees herds of cats roaming the prairies and plains alongside the buffalo and caribou, right?  Lizzie was a much happier cat after Autumn died and she was the one-and-only, so much so that I swore I would never again have multiple cats.

When Lizzie died in April, I started scouting British Shorthair breeders again, thinking it was time to go back to the breed of my most favorite cat.  I stalked websites.  I watched for news of new litters or retired cats. I had three cats picked out and was planning that roadtrip to make a final decision. I never, not for a single moment, contemplated a rescued or shelter cat.

Let me digress here and note that my good friend over at Katzundyarner Bits is a multiple cat owner (look at the list on her sidebar). She also works with the local Trap/Neuter/Release program (Hyde Park Cats). Said local TNR program also fosters out cats - rescued cats and cats from shelters.  I have known of her work with this group for a long time.  Somehow, every time I thought I had made a decision on the next pure-bred, I found that I hadn't.  Instead I was spending increasing time at Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet.  After all, I didn't have little kids that might terrorize or be terrorized by a shelter cat.  Maybe it was time to broaden my horizon.  Eventually I started stalking the Hyde Park Cats blog.  Astra, a sweet looking female calico showed up. Aha! The perfect cat for us, I thought. Okay, so there were also this pair of cute black kittens, a sister and her adopted brother. But there were two of them and the listing said they had to be adopted together. And they weren't calicos. Or even tabbies.  HPC seemed to think I should inquire after a couple choices, though, so I included them in my email. Guess which we chose?

Meet Zoe (formerly Hennessy, but I'm married to a history major and he had just finished a book on Byzantium and really wanted to name a female cat after the 11th century Empress) and Remy.  They joined Chez Wool-Gathering in May. 

They've grown.

Turns out a bonded pair is a whole different kindle of kittens than the two divas we had before.