Monday, November 17, 2014

Lessons in Humility: Gauge Edition


Just about a year ago, I started a stranded sweater for my husband (Streymoy from Knitty Winter 2013). I even posted photos of the swatches and the buttons on this here blog and promptly never wrote about it again. I was pretty excited about the project, as I already had the yarn in my stash and my husband liked the look of it. We decided between us that we'd prefer it as a pullover, rather than a cardigan, and I got started swatching.


My first swatch with the recommended needle size got me 15 stitches per 4 inches. Since the pattern gauge was meant to be 20 sts/4", I needed to go down at least a needle size. The next swatch got me 18 sts/4", which was closer to gauge, but not quite there. And here's where I got myself into trouble: I was really anxious to get started knitting, so I did some math and calculated that I could use the directions for the men's large size and have it fit with 2" or so of ease. My math was wrong. Terribly, comically wrong. Like 4" too big around the chest wrong. It was so frustrating! Even worse, it had taken me a solid two months to knit it wrong, and I was disgusted with it. I unraveled my work and set the yarn aside to taunt me at different times throughout the year.


I picked it up again this fall, determined to make a sweater that fit. I took a hard look at the swatches and the sleeves that I hadn't unraveled. I also took another look at the math and determined that my calculations had been off by .25 stitches per inch, which was just the difference between a sweater that would fit my husband and a sweater that would fit Rubeus Hagrid. Anyway, with this reevaluation of my mathing, I decided that following the directions for the men's medium size would end in a sweater that my husband could wear in public, not just in our frigid basement.

The two months of futile knitting last fall seems to have made this fall's knitting go really fast. The stranded charts were easy to memorize, and it felt like it took me no time at all to knit the body portion of the sweater. Once it was long enough, I had my husband try it on. It fit! I was so happy! I was less happy, though, at the prospect of having to re-knit the sleeves. As they were knit to stitch counts of the large size, I didn't want to try to calculate the adjustments necessary to make them work with the new body. It only took about a week to re-do the sleeves and join them to the body.


Now that I had one big garment on the needles, I marked off the steek stitches for the collar and began the raglan shoulder decreases. The designer did a fantastic job here by planning the decreases in such a way that it ended up a little more like a saddle shoulder than a true raglan, which I think made for a better-fitting neckline than most. Once I completed the shoulders and neck, it was time to prepare the steek stitches for cutting.


I'm not gonna lie: just the thought of cutting my knitting makes me want to pee my pants. What if I cut too far? What if I cut in the wrong place? What if the reinforcements don't hold? What if??? I was really sweating it. In the end, I followed Kate Davies' steeking instructions: I did the crochet reinforcements and cut that sweater right down the middle. I even stopped in the right place. The only thing I think I'll do differently if I ever do another short steek is that I'll bind off the stitches meant to be at the base of the collar, which I think will add a little strength. It's a small thing, I think, but one that could help the sweater's durability.


With the steek cut, I picked up stitches for the shawl collar. I made it a 1x1 rib to match the cuffs and bottom ribbing. I had originally followed Jared Flood's collar instructions from the Brownstone pullover, but it ended up with too much fabric at the back of the neck, so I undid it and reduced the number of short rows by half. This made the collar fit my husband much better. I finished it with an i-cord bind off, incorporating the buttonholes as I bound off. As soon as I added the buttons, I made my husband try it on. It fit! We were both pretty happy about it. As I hadn't washed and blocked it when I took the photos, you're seeing it fit more snugly than it does since it was washed. As it was a lot of sweater (bulky-weight yarn, stranded), I filled the tub of my washing machine with water & wool wash and let it soak. I briefly considered blotting it dry by hand, but changed my mind when I lifted it out of the washer and found it was really, really heavy wet. I decided the better plan would be to use the spin cycle (skipping the agitation) to remove most of the water from the sweater. Then I laid it out on the guest bed, getting it to its proper shape and size and let it dry for a few days.


Since I finished it, my husband has gotten to wear it a couple times and has told me how much he loves it, which makes me pretty happy. He's so knitworthy! There's yarn leftover from this project and I'm trying to decide if I want to make something for myself from it. I've found a couple patterns I like, but I haven't made up my mind yet. That decision may need a little time to percolate.

So, Friends, that's it for tonight. Until next time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It felt like a minute


Oh, Friends, where has the time gone? I'm having difficulty believing that I've been gone as long as I have, but so it is. Last time I wrote, I talked about my disappointing State Fair results, and showed you the beginning of a sock I was making for my mother-in-law. I've since completed the sock and three other projects.

First, the sock: it's the Rhombus pattern from CookieA's Knit Sock Love book. It ended up taking about six weeks to finish, and I ended up running out of yarn about 2.5" before I could close up the toes. A kind Raveler sold me a second skein of the gorgeous Sundara Sock, which allowed me to finish with enough left over to make some socks for myself.


Next I decided that I would make a point of knitting up the oldest yarn in my stash, partly as a way to clear out some space in my bins and partly as a challenge to myself. While I have a whole lot of some mohair boucle that I bought at a fiber festival some years ago, I knew I could find a pattern for the silk/bamboo hand-dyed sport weight that's been in my stash nearly as long. Anyway, believing that I had a mere 450 yards of this yarn, I cast on for the Glitz at the Ritz shawl, which I thought would use up both skeins. I got through nearly the whole shawl before I realized that I'd underestimated the yardage of the skeins, leaving me with nearly the whole second skein upon completion of the shawl.


Knowing that I likely didn't have enough yardage remaining to make another triangular shawl, I decided that a rectangular scarf would be the way to go. I could cast on and knit until I ran out of yarn, hoping that the yarn's slinkiness would help once it was washed and blocked. I used the Shimmer Wave scarf pattern, which had an easy-to-memorize repeat and traveled well. I mostly worked on it during my commute to work every day and occasionally in meetings and waiting rooms. It took a mere three weeks to complete, and I've already given it to a coworker.

Lastly, I restarted the Streymoy sweater I'd had so little success with last winter, but I think I'll save that for next time. There's a lot to tell! Until then.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

State Fair Results


The Kentucky State Fair concluded today, so I thought I should head back out there and get a some photos of my entries in situ before I bring them home tomorrow. I had gone to the Fair on the day it opened, but I forgot my camera, so all I had were crappy cell phone pics.


While everything I entered earned a ribbon, none of them were blue (or red, for that matter), so I have to admit that I am disappointed with how I did. Overall, I think that each of the blue ribbon winners deserved their award, but I have a few quibbles with some of the other rankings. It's not major stuff, mostly technical issues with a few things. Oh, well. There's always next year.


My Cypri shawl earned a third place ribbon, which was a pleasant surprise, as I didn't really have any expectations on how it might do. My Rafters cardigan and Hanami stole both earned fourth place ribbons, which I'm alright with. The cardigan has been worn and washed often, and was a little felted as a result. The stole was entered in the always-competitive lace category and was up against a lot of really good stuff. All the ribbon winners in this category were beaded and knit from laceweight yarns. What ended up being the biggest surprise and disappointment was that my socks only earned an honorable mention (there were two honorable mentions in socks!). There was a lot of variety in the category this year, and the level of competition was definitely higher than past years. My favorite socks (aside from my own, I mean) were the second place ones (traditional stranded knitting). The first and third place socks were nice, and I thought that the fourth place socks had some technical errors, but did have a pleasing color combination. I'll just have to do better next year.


Aside from the knitting, there were plenty of other things to see in the exhibition hall. I always look at the needlepoint and quilts, and this year I discovered some fantastic baskets and leather work. The wood turning folks entered a lot of beautiful objects. Here are photos of some of my favorites:










That's it for tonight, Friends. Until next time.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A little of this, a little of that.

I just got back from a week at the lake, and while I mostly just spent a lot of time on the water, I did manage to do a few crafty things, including the following:
  • I finished my worsted-weight anklets. I used the pattern for the Peace Fleece socks, but since I didn't have a lot of yarn, I just did a one inch cuff before I turned the heel. I think it might have been the second day we were there. My seven-year-old nephew said, "Oh, you finished your socks. Good job!"

  • I bought a skein of yarn. Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the Begonia Leaf color. It's a pretty reddish purple color. That's all the yarn I bought. I'll likely never again exercise such restraint.

  • I worked a little on one of the sleeves of my "chain mail" Halloween costume. It was a boring slog of a sleeve that still isn't finished, and I still have the second one to finish before I can start sewing the tabard part of the costume. I'm going to go as Sir Galahad the Chaste from Monty Python & the Holy Grail if I can finish the damned costume.
  • I finally finished the columbines needlepoint I started ages and ages ago. There wasn't much left to do - just the border - and I was making good progress, when I managed to break the only needle I had with me. Once I got home, I was able to complete it. Now all I have to do is take it to the needlepoint shop to get it blocked. Once that's done, I'll get it framed.

  • I started a pair of Rhombus socks for my mother-in-law. I'm using a skein of Sundara sock yarn in their Chocolate Covered Caramel colorway. This should be good commute knitting.

Well, that's it for tonight.  Next time, I hope to have a State Fair update. Until then, Friends!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

State Fair Knitting: Done!

So I've completed my Kentucky State Fair knitting! It's been done for more than a week or so, and last Thursday I gave it to my friend, Karen, so that she can turn it in for me (I'll be out of town for the submission times, so she's kindly taking it for me.) I entered four items, most of which I've documented here, but one which I was determined to keep secret until the very last minute.


The secret project was my entry in the sock category. I won the blue ribbon in this category the last two times I entered, and I wanted to keep my competition in the dark about what I was knitting. I don't think anyone I'll be up against really reads this blog (except Karen, but I don't mind that she knows what I'm working on - we see each other at knit night anyway), but it's just one of those things. Maybe I'm just a little superstitious. Or just competitive. Actually, it's probably the competitive thing. My husband laughs about it and says that I should just go out and break their fingers, but I don't think that's very sporting.


Anyway, the sock pattern is CookieA's Gothic Spire socks and I knit them with Dream in Color Smooshy Sock in the Melon Bomb color. For whatever reason, I can knit Cookie's sock patterns, the tessellated ones especially, effortlessly. This pattern looks really complicated knit up, and I think a lot of people might find it to be challenging work, but the best thing about it is I think it will impress the judges. I was very careful, too, about the color choice. In past years, it seems that light, bright colors have earned more ribbons than dark, sombre colors, so this bright melon-y orange was just the ticket.


According to my Ravelry notes, I knit the socks in a mere eleven days, which, even by my standards, is pretty darned fast. I generally allow for up to 21 days for complicated fingering-weight socks, but these practically flew off my needles. Almost before I knew it, they were done! They are fabulously comfortable socks, due in large part to the yarn. It's a nice, squishy yarn, that knits into nice, squishy socks. I need more of this in my stash. Soon.

Once the Fair opens next week (on August 15, I think) I'll go check everything out. I'm very hopeful that the socks will win me another blue ribbon. I'm also submitting my Hanami stole (in the lace category), my Cypri shawl (in the shawl category), and my Rafters cardigan (in the Aran-stitch sweater category). I think the Hanami has a pretty good chance for a third-place ribbon, although the delicacy of the beadwork could get it a second place. The lace category is very competitive, and my friend Holly pretty much owns this category. I know that she's entering an epic beaded shawl and I expect she'll get the blue ribbon here. She should've had Best of Show for the beaded shawl she made last year, but she was robbed. I'm hopeful it doesn't happen twice. As for the Cypri shawl, I'm not sure how it will do, because I haven't paid much attention to this category the last few years. I think it's pretty good - maybe a second-place here - though I can't say for sure. I have no idea whatsoever how the Rafters cardigan will do. I think it shows a great deal of skill, so it should score well there, but I did wear it all last winter, and it's gotten slightly felted from several washings. The stitch definition isn't as crisp as I'd like it to be, but I don't know what it will be up against. I used a high-quality yarn, and the sweaters I remember from past years appeared to have been knit from acrylic, but I really don't know how it'll do. I guess I could live with an honorable mention, but I'd prefer to place.

Well, that's it for now. The Fair stuff is now out of my hands, and it's no good worrying about the judging, anyway. I've done my best, and now I'll have to wait it out. I'm at the lake this week, and I hope to put up another post while I'm here. It's amazing how easy the writing is when you're on vacation! So, until next time, Friends.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another project finished!


I've finished my Cypri shawl, and I can't be happier about it. I enjoyed knitting it, but, seriously, 382 stitches for something like 1000 rows (just kidding, it was probably more like 70 rows) is a lot. It didn't help that I forgot some decreases that were supposed to happen right after I started on the first chart. And the confusion I had near the end of the second chart, that caused me to have to un-knit about a dozen rows. And almost running out of yarn before I finished binding off - I finished with 18". I had another skein in reserve, but who wants to add new yarn just for a bind off? I'd probably have un-knit the last four rows before I'd have chosen that. Ugh.


I have also finished my State Fair socks, but I'm not ready to show them just yet. Maybe in a couple weeks or so. I can say that they practically flew off my needles, the pattern is gorgeous, and I love the yarn. Aside from that, mum's the word.

So it's a short post tonight, Friends. Until next time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

There: I fixed it.


Oh, Friends, I fixed that damned sock! I undid the messed up part, re-did it, undid it again, and finally re-did it correctly. Once I took a good look at the photos of the sample and wrapped my head around how the foot of the sock would come together, the knitting went pretty quickly.


I think I might have gotten back on the right track on Friday or Saturday, and by yesterday afternoon I'd finished the toe. The foot section ended up being a little longer than I'd expected, so I had to graft the toe closed a little sooner than I would usually have done. It's not a big deal though; I have a pretty wide foot.


There were what felt like a million ends to weave in, as the sock is constructed from 12 triangles that are knit from the outside in to the center. So that's 27 ends, if you're counting the cuff and the toe in that number, and that's before you close up all the gaps where the corners of the triangles meet.


Now, the thing is, right now I've only got one complete sock. I'm not going to start its mate just yet because the yarn for my State Fair socks just arrived, and I've been dying to start these. I took last year off from Fair knitting, as I'd won the points total the year before. Last year, my thinking was that it wouldn't be as much fun entering if I couldn't win the big prize again. This year, I've decided that I like seeing how my work does compared to my peers across the state. I have a couple friends who have a category that they consistently win, and I kind of feel that the socks category is mine. I don't want to get a big head or anything (maybe it's too late?), but I did win the last two times I entered and the socks that won last year placed behind mine the two previous years. I want my ribbon back, y'all.


I'm not going to reveal the pattern until I've submitted the socks to the Fair, so this might be the last time I mention them for a couple months. I will, however, show you the yarn, which is freaking gorgeous. It's Dream in Color Smooshy, in the Melon Bomb colorway. I think it a little more coral in real life, rather than the slightly muted hue in the photo. I only ordered it on Friday, so I'm really pleased that it was waiting for me when I got home from work today.

So that's it for this evening, Friends. I have new socks to start! Until next time, then.