> To Knit is Divine: September 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

When the yarn speaks

Sometimes, you just have to listen to the yarn. A couple of days before I left on my trip I stopped by my LYS to purchase yarn for the ISE. Since I wanted to start working on the scarf during the trip, I didn't have time to order anything on line, so I had to go with something that the store carried. I wasn't planning on doing a scarf in laceweight yarn (wanted to go with the quick knit, don't you know). But, well, see, they had just received some Misti Alpaca laceweight and, well, see, they had this incredibly beautiful red Misti Alpaca laceweight and, well, somehow it ended up getting purchased. So, I figured, I'd double it so it would be a bit of a quicker knit than single.

Then came the fun of trying to decide on a patten. I started looking through the Barbara Walker books to get stitch pattern ideas. I had a very clear plan. I wanted something that would be fairly mindless knitting (for the long flights, you know), that would look good on both sides, and that would have some sort of connection to where I live or to where I would be travelling. I imagined using a couple of different stitches, perhaps one in the centre and another on either side, separated by cables or twists or something.

As I looked through the books, I came across the Rose Trellis Lace pattern (page 226 of A Treasury of Knitting Patterns) It was beautiful, but not what I wanted. The description in the book says "This extraordinarily beautiful lace pattern is a joy to work even though the pattern rows are numerous." Numerous, she says. Yup, I'd say. It's a multiple of 20 stitches (+2) and a 44-row repeat. 44. With nary a "same as Row 4" to be found. At least all the wrong side rows are purl - so there's really only 22 different rows to work. Uh-huh. A joy to work she says - I wondered if Barbara and I have the same meaning of the word "joy".

Even though it wasn't what I wanted, I decided to swatch it (cuz there's always another project, right?, and I get sidetracked easily). I swatched it with the laceweight, single strand, on 3.25mm needles. Two problems quickly emerged. One - the written instructions were kicking my butt in a serious way. I kept missing yo's and without seeing on a chart where they were supposed to land, I made a mess of it very quickly. And two - the stockinette parts were too loose on the 3.25mm needles. So I ripped it out without getting far. Besides, it wasn't what I wanted.

Sometime on Wednesday morning, between blocking the baby sweater and packing, I took out my graph paper and charted out the pattern. But not for the scarf, see, because it wasn't what I wanted. I still hadn't decided what pattern to use, so I packed the Barbara Walker books in my carry-on, and a couple of different sized needles, and left for the trip.

After I finished the sweater, I started swatching. I swatched 3 or 4 things, with the yarn doubled, on 3.25mm needles. But the yarn clearly didn't want to be any of those things. At 9:30pm in the Zurich Airport, after a sleepless night flight and 4 hours of sleep during the day, and discovering that my flight would be an hour late and not leaving until 11:30pm, I pulled out the 2.5mm needles and cast on 50 stitches (2 repeats + 2 + 4 stitches on each side for a garter stitch border). Forget the swatching business - time for action. I figured that if I didn't like it, or if it was too difficult, I'd just rip the whole thing out anyway. I did a few rows of garter stitch (not enough, in retrospect, so I'll be taking out the cast-on and adding a couple more rows of garter stitch), and then started the pattern, following the chart. That made all the difference. It took a couple of tries to get the first row right (since I couldn't base it on the row before and since apparently I have trouble counting to 50 when I'm exhausted and don't know what time zone I'm in). But after that I was sailing.

My apologies to Barbara Walker for doubting her. She was right - it is a joy to work (though I highly recommend working from a chart). And it is extraordinarily beautiful. And most of all, although it's not what I wanted, it is clearly what the yarn wanted.

(The colour is a bit dark here - it really is a lovely shade of red)

Best of all, the yarn is happy now. I hope my ISE pal will be too.

Just how long is the trip from Ottawa to Zurich?

Is it long enough to:

- sew the shoulder seams on the baby sweater
- Knit the neckband
- knit the button band
- rip out the button band after deciding you don't like the colour you chose
- re-knit the button band in a different colour
- knit the buttonhole band- sew both arms to the body
- sew the side and underarm seams
- rip out the buttonhole band after realizing that you only bought 3 buttons, and not 4
- make a decision on whether to spend layover in Zurich button shopping, or to go with 3 buttons
- re-knit the buttonhole band with 3 holes
- sew on the buttons
- weave in all the ends
- attach a little "Handknit by Leanne" tag (printed before I left home)

Hell, yeah!

I didn't sleep on the plane, but I have a day room in Zurich (where I am writing this) so there's plenty of time to sleep in the morning. I have 16 hours in Zurich before another night flight.

But the sweater is finished. Although I won't be giving the gift until tomorrow, I didn't want to wait until the very last minute (!) and finish it on my second consecutive night flight. I decided that was a recipe for disaster, so I aimed to have it finished before arriving in Zurich so I could give it a final quick steam (I had blocked the pieces at home before I left) courtesy of the hotel ironing room (after a nap, of course)

So, after deciding to knit this thing on Saturday, I knit the back on Saturday, the two fronts on Sunday, Wet-blocked those pieces, knit one arm on Monday evening, the second arm on Tuesday evening, steam blocked both of those on Wednesday morning and did all the finishing on the bus to Montreal and the flight to Zurich. Whew! Nothing like a tight deadline to motivate you.

Addition: It's now two days later (Saturday). The sweater has been delivered to the receipient (well, to the Dad of the recipient - the little guy's a bit young to have met me at the airport). He promised me a picture of the baby wearing
the sweater - so hopefully I'll have that to show soon.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A bit of this, a bit of that

I headed back to work this week after my vacation. I must say, it's a lot easier to keep the blog updated when I'm not spending my day at the office. This work stuff really cuts into the knitting and blogging time.

The sweater is finished. I finished it last weekend and then wet-blocked it. I guess I didn't squeeze enough water out of it before I set it out to dry, because it took days to dry. Meanwhile, I kept having to move
it around because it was drying in places that I needed to use. I took a whole bunch of pictures this morning of the sweater being worn, but I'm not happy with how they turned out, so here are a couple of crappy shots:

Pattern: Heirloom Aran Pullover
Yarn: Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, Natural

I had some gauge problems and some fitting problems, but overall it's not too bad, and S is happy with it. I'm still not great with things that need to fit properly, but I'm working on it, so I'm sure I will improve in time.

I've got a couple of new things in progress. A bit of this:

And a bit of that:

I'm travelling next week for work, and the driver where I'll be is a new dad of a baby boy. I decided that I wanted to knit a baby sweater for him. I was going to make a side-to-side sweater using self-patterning sock yarn, but I haven't played with a few different yarns and haven't been happy with the results. One yarn I had is a bit too "girly", the Knitpicks yarn I mentioned last week is not soft enough, and even after washing it's still kind of smelly (not as bad, but still not baby-sweater smelling). So I was at my LYS yesterday picking up some yarn for my International Scarf Exchange project, and saw some really cute patterns in the Mission Falls Wee Knits book. I'm sort of making the "Crayons" sweater, but I'm going to make it a cardigan, and I changed the colours from the pattern. But I am using the Mission Falls 1824 cotton, which is aran weight, so it's knitting up pretty fast.

I'll try to get it finished before I leave on Wednesday so I can give it to him when I arrive, but if not I'll work on it during the trip and block it in the hotel and get it finished before I leave. I'll be away for three weeks, so it shouldn't be a problem.

During my trip I'll also work on the scarf for the Scarf Exchange. I have the yarn purchased (yummy Misti Alpaca laceweight in a beautiful shade of red). I don't have a pattern decided on yet, but with the help of Barbara Walker, I should be able to come up with something.

I'll try to update while I'm travelling, but I'm not sure how successful I'll be. If I can't I should have lots of finished things to show when I get back in early October.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Crossed Cables and Smelly Yarn

My new Knitpicks Options needle set arrived yesterday, and they're just sitting there, still in the packaging. Why? Because although I have a gazillion ideas of things I want to swatch for and cast on for, I've decided to do some monogamous knitting until my sweetie's sweater is finished. When the sweater got cast aside for other, more lacy endeavours, the back and front were already finished, and one sleeve was on the needles. I'm nearing the end. I have one sleeve finished, and the second sleeve almost finished - I'm at the saddle. When alas, I noticed this on the first sleeve:

Don't see it? Maybe some arrows will help

Yes, the dreaded mis-crossed cable. I was knitting this while watching Season 1 of Lost on DVD - apparently something grabbed my attention at that point. Oh well, at least it's only a few inches back on a section that's only 23 stitches wide. It won't take my too long to redo. Then I need to block the pieces, sew it all together, and do the neckline. Then I get to play with new things. Yippee!

When I ordered the needles, I threw in 3 balls of Knitpicks Simple Stripes sock yarn, in the Crayon colourway.

I want to make a baby sweater using self-patterning sock yarn, but I'm not sure that I'll make it with this. First, it's not very soft. And who wants a rough baby sweater. Second, it stinks. Horribly. When I pick up a ball of yarn, I always touch it and then sniff it. I don't even realize that I'm doing it - but I always seem to be smelling yarn. And this yarn is really yucky smelling. I definitely can't make a stinky baby sweater, regardless of how cute it is. I'll swatch it and wash the swatch and then decide. If washing makes it softer and nicer smelling, I'll go ahead with the sweater as planned - else, back to the drawing board.