Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't Panic

Truer words were never spoken. Unless they were, "never assume." Or maybe even, "it's really just not that important." More to the point, er, cancel that cri de coeur, please.

World's-most-patient-husband, on the phone last night, reassured me, saying of my missing skein of yarn, "I think it will turn up." But this morning I awoke early, still fretful, racking my brain about anywhere in the house I might not have looked, worrying about finding matching dye lots, thinking about yarn-conserving sweater styles, wondering if I should drive over and retrace my steps again in the daylight. What if I had overlooked it there in the parking lot, lonely, bedraggled, maybe even run over once or twice? I wandered over yet again to where my yarn is kept, looking mournfully at the six remaining skeins in the bag. At the six remaining skeins... six....

Hey, wait a minute. Hadn't I said that the back of the sweater took three full skeins? Didn't I have the first sleeve in progress? Using skein number... four? Four. But I was sure I had grabbed an extra skein and tossed it in the knitting bag! I could have sworn I had. I remembered tossing it in. Didn't I? The evidence was staring me in the face. I guess I had only thought of tossing an extra skein in the knitting bag and hadn't actually done it. Never assume.

Oh waiter, can I have that egg on my face cooked sunny side up, please?

So I'm sheepish, but relieved. The Comfy Winter [Mock]Turtleneck is saved! And having thought I had lost them, I now love both the yarn and the sweater more than ever. And I had hours of cheap entertainment last evening. At least I didn't go so far as to try to file a missing skein report with the police.

All I can say is, what a kerfuffle!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Skein Overboard!

I'm in deep knitter's distress today. I'm trying to believe it's not so, but I seem to have lost one skein of the Cashmerino. I only had inches of yarn to spare, so if I can't find it, the Comfy Winter [Mock]Turtleneck sweater is a goner.

I packed a bag this morning for my occasional lunchtime knitting group. Since the bulky knitting goes so quickly, I cleverly grabbed an extra skein to toss into the bag. What great planning! What forethought! How I wish now that I hadn't done it!

I had some chores and a doctor's appointment in the morning, so I rushed around, took care of everything, and arrived at work just in time to adjourn to the knitting session. Imagine my dismay when I pulled everything out of the bag, and the extra skein wasn't there. :(

I got through the rest of the day thinking it had probably just fallen out in the car. It wasn't in the car. Then, I thought, I must have put it down somewhere in the morning and not actually put it into the bag. When I got home, I turned the house upside down. Resisting my normal urge to get flustered and upset when I've lost something, I admonished myself, "Don't Panic." I remained calm and thought of all kinds of interesting places I could have set down that skein and forgotten it. I got quite creative about it. Nothing panned out.

By this time Don't Panic was wearing pretty thin. I had exhausted every possibility I could think of in the house and general vicinity. Finally, I thought, perhaps it fell out of the bag when I was juggling things around in the car trunk between appointments, and perhaps it managed to skitter over the edge and out on the ground, and perhaps I was too distracted and rushed to notice while it rolled away. It was probably lying on the ground in the parking lot somewhere! I figured I would probably fret and keep myself awake all night if I didn't go and find it.

Is this beginning to sound crazy? Yes, I got back in the car late in the evening and drove back to the doctor's office. I shimmied the car all around that parking lot to sweep the headlights on high beam over every inch. I'm surprised nobody called security. But I struck out. Then it hit me! The most obvious thing is that it must have fallen out and rolled under my desk at work. I drove back to work, scanning that parking lot as well with a suspicious eye, and then went back into the office to have a good search. I'm surprised the security guard didn't call for back-up.

Now, usually when I lose something, world's-most-patient-husband just rolls his eyes, checks one or two places and immediately finds it, saying that I must not have looked. But he's out of town at the moment and not here to rescue me from my plight. When he returns tomorrow, I'm doubtful that even he can pull off his rabbit-from-the-hat magic trick this time. I've really looked.

So what happens if some stranger finds a lonely skein of yarn on the ground with no owner's identifying marks ? Does he think, "oh this is something that someone will surely miss. I'd better find the nearest lost-and-found and turn it in"? Or is it more like, "hey, I know someone who knits; she'll like this!" Perhaps we should have tiny little luggage tags, and identifying micro-chips so our pet yarn can always find its way home. OK, I'm kidding -- I'm really not that crazy!

One thing is for sure. Having that skein go missing has taken the wind right out of my sails for now for doing any more knitting on this sweater. I'll wait a couple of days to see if it turns up. If not, I'll be ripping out, and designing a nine-skein sweater. I suppose that's not so bad. There are worse things than a form-fitting pullover with a deep scoop neck.

But I'd really rather find it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Palate Cleanser

The handspun sweater project in graduated shades of beige and brown is waiting in the wings, but will have to bide its time a little longer, while I recover from the just-completed Pine Bark sweater project.

I love my new Pine Bark sweater, really I do. But after spending so much time with it, I'm not quite ready to jump straight into another project in beiges. Not just yet. I need to work for a little while with some other color. Then I can come back to neutrals with a refreshed eye and a renewed sense of appreciation.

So the wheel of fickleness has been spun and points to this. At Stitches East last fall, I got a good buy on a bag, 10 skeins, of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky in this indigo color, somewhere between blue and violet. It's made up of merino, microfiber, and a whisper of cashmere, and it's soft and nice to the touch.

It does have some idiosyncrasies, as it turns out, that affect the choice of a pattern. The main one is that this yarn is heavy. I don't mean heavy as in thick and warm superbulky-sized yarn (although it is that, without a doubt.) I mean heavy as in tipping the scales. Avoirdupois. Because of this heavy quality, each 100-gram skein yields only 75 meters of yarn. So, though I didn't notice it at the time, in the heat of shopping in the sensory overload environment that is the Stitches Market, my 10 skeins provide me with a rather limited 750 meters with which to make a sweater.

I scouted around on-line to see what sweaters others have been making in this yarn, and came up mostly with the Debbie Bliss Simply Marilyn sweater, like this one. (It's kind of a dramatic-looking design.) I also saw some comments here and there about the sweater being heavy.

So the pattern would need to be one that can stand up to the weight and not look droopy. It would also need to be a little thrifty on the yarn requirements, to fit in my limited yardage. I found the Debbie Bliss Gemma sweater in a pattern book, and that got me thinking about doing a turtleneck. I finally settled on a slightly more generous-looking one, from Marilyn Saitz Cohen's Knitting Simple Sweaters from Luxurious Yarns book. It's a very simple design, with the euphonious name, "Comfy Winter Turtleneck." Poor thing. That's not a name; it's just a description. I'm tempted to rename it for my own purposes, just so I don't have to refer to it that way during the knitting of it. Of course, I might as well add a couple of touches of my own, while I'm at it. As written, it's a perfectly plain stockinette sweater. I'll at least dab a cable down the front to decorate it.

So now, here I am knitting away again with big US size 11s. Needles the size of kindergarten pencils. And the yarn is heavy, all right. When I pull out a length from the skein, it falls back on the chair next to me with a distinct plop. Superbulky knitting certainly does go quickly, though. I just started on the sweater Sunday evening, and already the back is done. It's not much to look at, however. Just a rectangle with a twisted rib edge.

The yardage is going to be touch and go. The back took three full skeins. The front will take another three. The two sleeves together add up to more square inches than the back, so they'll take three-plus. That means we're cutting into the last skein already before even accounting for the collar. I might as well just face it. The sad fact is that there is not going to be enough yarn for a full, fold-over turtleneck. That's OK, though. I believe this sweater's true destiny is to become a mock turtleneck.

I do hope there will at least be enough yarn left to sew up the seams!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pine Bark Steps Out

My, there's been such a lot going on. I've been practically wallowing in yarnstruck pursuits for the last few days. The needles have been clicking, and Rastro the spinning wheel has woken up from a lengthy rest.

But first, there's this little pile of scraps. Yes, a messy little pile of snipped ends that could mean only one thing.

That's right, Pine Bark is done!

It's finally a sweater! It's comfortable, and casual, and sweatshirt-soft, and very wearable. The unusual felted merino yarn creates a sort of frosted matte look, something like the gray bloom that spreads across the surface of a plum.
I'm very pleased with it.

The zigging and zagging pattern, in combination with the gray/beige color, is what reminded me of the bark of pine trees, and inspired its name.

As I do with each sweater I work out for myself, I certainly learned a few things about design with this one, some the hard way. One is about how a given amount of ease will look in a particular style and weight of yarn. Another is about how the back neck shape and neckband influence the way the shoulder line hangs. And a third is about how gravity helps lengthen the sleeves for you. Happily, in the end, it's a sweater neither for gorillas nor for kangaroos. I managed to correct the over-long sleeves without going too far in the other direction and making them over-short.

I'd been worried most of the way through about having enough yarn. This was souvenir yarn I'd bought on vacation, and if I ran a little short, it wouldn't exactly be easy just to pop in and pick up a couple more balls. After studying Ann Budd's laminated yarn requirements card (very, very handy for yarn shopping when you haven't yet chosen a particular pattern) and looking at books and magazines for sweaters in this yarn weight, I expected it was going to be a pretty tight squeak. That influenced the design I dreamed up. I didn't think the yarn on hand would stretch to anything oversized or cable-y. I didn't dare do any large collars or turned-back cuffs, either. So I made it a simple design with a modest little knit-and-purl pattern for decoration. And a scoop neck.

As it turned out, there was plenty of yarn. In fact, there was a fair amount left over: the two ice-cream- scoop-sized balls excised from being surplus amounts of sleeve, the two good-sized partial balls, and another whole ball off-camera that was used for swatching. It could have been a turtleneck and still had some to spare!

But the scoop neck with split placket was actually done intentionally, as a considered choice, not purely as a yarn-economy measure. I thought it would be something I can wear over a t-shirt, tank top, turtleneck, or maybe even a collared shirt. And already, in the day and a half since it's been done, I've found lots of excuses to wear it. At the doubleknitting weight in merino wool, it's light but warm. It's an easy-to-wear style. This one is going to be a well-loved sweater that will get constant use. Welcome, Pine Bark!

In other news, on Friday, we had a bit of a winter weather disruption , a not-as-severe -as-predicted icestorm -- in contrast to the last one, which was a terrible mess and not predicted at all. While home watching the storm, what there was of it, I made a loaf of pumpkin bread. I threw in some chocolate chips as well, which made it all the better. We're unreasonably fond of chocolate chips here at Yarnstruck Manor.

It was just made from this mix, but still winter-cozy, with its flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. While it was in the oven, though, I noticed that the first ingredient was sugar. That didn't bode well. Sure enough, the first slice was good, but seemed to need... something.

Apparently, what it needed was a nice thick layer of peanut butter. Do not ask me how I came up with this goofy whim, because I have no idea. But it was a winner. It worked surprisingly well, cutting the overly sweet taste and adding a sort of full, rounded bass-note to the whole affair. I think maybe it serves the same purpose as the cream cheese frosting does on a carrot cake. Mmmm.

What does any of this have to do with yarnstruck pursuits? Well, I actually am quite fond of cooking and baking, when the urge for constant knitting subsides. But more to the point, it brings to mind something said to me not long ago by a wise woman. A wise woman who, as it happens, was trying to sell me more of her fancy mixes. She wasn't making much headway with me, however, as I still had yet to use this first one, bought on an earlier occasion. "It's a consumable, not a collectible," she said.

How right she was. And so is my yarn. And my small but precious, greedily hoarded store of my own handspun. And my spinning fiber. And the raw fleece I bought last fall.

For the rest of the weekend, I did my level best to make inroads into them all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Making Up Lost Ground

A few days ago, I was bearing down on the finish of the Pine Bark sweater. I had it all put together and had visions of wearing it that very weekend... until I tried it on. And the mirror told me it was not to be. I had accidentally given poor Pine Bark a pair of gorilla arms. The sleeves were a good two inches too long, and a lot had to be ripped out to reshape and shorten them. I hope I'm not over-correcting; I certainly don't want to give it little kangaroo arms instead. And I do not want to have to redo it yet again. Sometime, maybe I'll tell the story of thrice-knit Ultraviolet.

But I'm getting close. I've redone almost all of the knitting that had to be ripped out. Luckily, the parts I'm redoing are just simple stockinette. I rather enjoy a long stint of mindless stockinette from time to time. It's nice not to have to pay attention to where I am in a stitch pattern, and just knit and knit. Anyway, I've got about twelve rows left to re-knit at the top of the second sleeve, and then I can seam the whole thing together again. Let's see, that comes to about 1,200 stitches. Wait, that sounds so much worse. Let's just stick to twelve rows, shall we?

The reknit parts actually have an interesting crumply texture that wasn't there before. You can sort of see it in this fuzzy night-time flash picture. It may not seem like it, but this is all plain stockinette. The part toward the left, which didn't have to be re-knit, is nice and smooth. The part on the right, well... isn't.

I wonder if this could have anything to do with it, hmmm?

Yes, I am re-knitting with the unraveled crinkly yarn. I think it's especially crinkly due to a little light blocking that it had undergone in its previous knitted state, to make it easier to sew the seams. When I hold the crinkly yarn taut, while actually knitting the stitches, it behaves fine. But as soon as I turn my back on it, it gets up to mischief. One leg of a stitch twists this way, and another sways that way, and the whole thing goes a little cattywompus.

I could, I suppose, go through all the rigmarole of skeining, washing, and blocking the yarn to return it to a pristine state, but is it really worth it? I don't think there will be any serious harm done. I'm sure the fabric will smooth out considerably when I block the finished sweater. I guess the biggest concern is whether the headstrong character of the crinkled yarn is going to result in a lot of unevenness in the size of the stitches. But this sweater is meant to be casual in the first place, not a marvel of smooth, precise needlework, so I'll try not to lose sleep over it.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to raise my gaze to where the next project is just starting to peek over the horizon. It might involve my handspun. It might involve a little more preparatory work on my spinning wheel. Incidentally, my beloved wheel has recently acquired the name Rastro. It chose the name itself, it seems. I had suggested a more ladylike name, but apparently it had its own ideas.

As excited as I am about using my own handspun, though, I'm not absolutely sure whether that particular project should be the next. After this long spell of beige-ish knitting, I may need a hit of color before embarking on the handspun all in its natural... beige-ish... hues. Well, we shall see.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fears Fulfilled

Sometimes knitting worries come true. (Of course, knitting worries are small worries.)

Today, I finished the Pine Bark sweater, but then again, I didn't. Well, maybe I'd better clarify that.

I'd been worrying about whether the neckline was too loose and open. Thursday night, with a certain amount of trepidation, I picked up stitches around the neck and knit the neckband. While the neckline didn't look too bad, as it turned out, the neckband itself was another matter. I knew it would be questionable, as the edging is not ribbed and the stitch pattern doesn't offer easy places to decrease stitches. That makes it a challenge to get a neckband to draw in and lie against the neck instead of standing up and striking out on its own. I did switch to a smaller needle size a couple of rows from the edge to make it smaller, but that wasn't enough. After a day of pondering in the back of my mind as I went about my workday, I came up with some ideas for places where I could decrease some stitches without visible harm to the stitch pattern. So, last night, off the neckband came, and back I knit it again. (Off most of it came, that is. Picking up the stitches around the neck is careful and risky work that I don't like to repeat if I can help it!) My tinkering worked, and the redesigned neckband was much more docile.

So my problem was solved, and there could be nothing ahead but smooth sailing. (Right?) This morning, I got straight to work on seaming the sweater, not even pausing to eat breakfast first (though my stomach eventually notified me that this was unacceptable.) I sewed on one sleeve, then draped the partial sweater over me, open-sided as it was, and had a look in the mirror. I could baste it all together for a test run, I thought, but it looked okay to me. I had no patience for that folderol. Full speed ahead.

I spent most of the day hard at work sewing all the seams, meticulously matching the pattern, making sure it was nice. I did everything but weave in the ends. Finally, a sweater had appeared from the curly-edged pile of parts. With a great sense of satisfaction, I pulled it on over my head and headed for the mirror. Uh-oh. Yes, it was recognizably a sweater, and quite the boxy, casual, comfortable style I'd had in mind. The notched scoop neck looked the way I wanted it to. Rather nice, really.

But the model wearing it looked strangely short. My hands were lost in the sleeves, only fingertips peeking out. The sweater was long enough to fit my taller self-image, rather than my more average-sized self. Yes, my fears of the sleeves being too long had come true. And how. I'd known that gravity might make the body of the sweater stretch out a little more over the shoulders, making the sleeves hang longer. But in retrospect, I think I must also have made a mistake in juggling the measurements, perhaps adding the edging on top of the planned sleeve length rather than allowing for it within.

So the sleeves would have to be adjusted. And since they were knit cuff-up, all those carefully sewn seams would have to be unsewn, just as carefully. OK, well, that's certainly time-consuming, but no matter. When I got done with that, I could just unravel the top two inches of each sleeve and sew them right back in. Right?

No, not a chance. These are modified drop-shoulder sleeves. The body has a nice little right-angled notch on each side for the sleeves to fit into, and each sleeve has a straight section at the top to create the right-angled corner that mates into its notch before angling off in the direction of the wrist. So what's the problem? Taking off the top two inches of the sleeve knocks off the straight bit, leaving only the slanted bit, which won't fit neatly into the squared-off notch. Unraveling another two inches to knit it back up straight would leave you with too few stitches, since you've then traveled part of the way down the narrowing slant. To really fix this problem, you have to recalculate the angle and replot the increases from the wrist all the way up. The entire sleeve has to be ripped out and redone. Except for the edging. One small mercy, at least.

Well, I can be a bit of a purist. I like to fix things right. I'm not the type who can toss my head, say it doesn't matter, and go on. It does matter to me. But some things can be too much. This was too much. I might still have teetered on the brink, but there's a stitch pattern over the bottom six inches or so of the sleeve that I just didn't care to re-knit. Why that seemed so distasteful, I don't know. The stitch pattern takes a little attention but isn't all that laborious. Maybe it was just because after having put the whole sweater together, I had thought I was done.

After a few woe-is-mes, I negotiated with myself and managed to hammer out a compromise. I decided to leave the forearm, with its stitch pattern, just as it was. I would then slant off a little more steeply from the elbow to the armhole to compensate. So the whole sleeve won't be one smooth line all the way from wrist to elbow, but I don't think the change in the angle midway up will be all that noticeable. I recalculated the rows between increases, ripped out half the sleeve, and got back to knitting. And here I still am, almost finished with fixing the first sleeve.

Honestly, sometimes it seems as if I have a fairy godmother who knows how I like to knit and tries to find ways to give me the opportunity to keep it up.

Dear fairy godmother, it's very sweet of you, but we don't need to make it last. I have plenty of yarn. I won't run out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Belle Dame Sans Merci

Beautiful and dangerous.

We had severe weather last night, and awoke in the morning to this: a fairyland of crystalline trees.

Every twig is encased in a thick, glassy coating of ice.

We often get one or two of these ice storms each winter. As one might expect, they make for dangerous roads and downed power lines. The trees groan with the extra weight of the ice. As damaging as our ice storms can be, I still can't help but appreciate them. They are oh, so beautiful.

On the knitting front, I too feel as if I'm trapped in ice. The Pine Bark sweater parts are under- going a mild preliminary blocking. I stitched the shoulder seams in a fever of impatience, draped the front and back over me hoping to see how well my design had worked, and found that I couldn't really tell, as curly and lumpy as it was. So I wielded a spray bottle lustily, smoothed the lumps and wrinkles into temporary submission, and put each part down for a rest under a damp towel. That was night before last. Perhaps the towels were a bit too damp. After two days, still, the pieces are not completely dry.

So I'm at a standstill for the time being. Though I toy a little with the other knitting projects, my heart's not in it. I want to get back to Pine Bark and give it a neckband and see if it will look the way I imagined it.

But, for now, I'll just enjoy the moment.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

All the Sleeve a Girl Could Want

... and maybe more.

A cold front and big gusts of wind have driven away last week's ridiculously warm weather. That's fine with me. It's February. It's allowed to be cold. And warm weather is a serious threat to my sweater-knitting. My enthusiasm for knitting cozy wool pullovers dwindles quickly above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But now we've fallen back into the twenties, and working on a toasty warm sweater seems just the thing.

So I've been able to buckle down with my needles and finish both of the sleeves for the Pine Bark sweater. I get very determined as I get near the goal line, and knit long and doggedly for the satisfaction of finishing each piece. I probably should have taken more breaks to give my hands and wrists a rest, but, you know, that would have slowed me down.

So here's my reward. All the pieces of Pine Bark are done, back, front, and both sleeves, awaiting only their neckband and seams. On the whole, I like the looks of it. In the doubleknit weight, it's pleasantly not-overly-bulky.

Of course, now that can I see how long the sleeves are, once they've come to life instead of existing only as a figment of my graph paper, my worry level is on the rise. (Maybe it's a barometric thing; I can't remember, does the barometer rise or fall when a cold front is coming in? Maybe my worry level follows the atmospheric pressure. Or maybe not.) Are the sleeves too long? Is the body too wide? Is the neck too baggy? Will the lumps from that stitch pattern block out?

Everything, of course, was measured and plotted to a fare-thee-well. But that hasn't always saved me. The last dearly loved sweater that I slaved over came out accurately to my planned dimensions, but they don't seem quite right, in the end, for the style. Sigh. But it shouldn't really hurt if I've built in too much ease on this one, as I'm going for more of a relaxed, boxy style. The neck and sleeves are the danger points. Too loose a neck might make it look just plain droopy. The neckband should let me adjust that a little, if need be.

The sleeves, though.... I calculated them based on my wingspan, less the width of the sweater's body. The big question is what will gravity do? With the weight of the sleeves pulling against the width of the shoulder, will they hang too long? I certainly didn't want them too short, but I also don't fancy having to turn them up when I wear the sweater, as it would rather ruin the effect of the edging I chose.

So I'm worrying. Is this what designers do? Plan things out, hope for the best, and then try to grin and bear it if the results aren't quite as expected? Or do they have time to knit several samples of a sweater until all the proportions click into place? Or does it just come easily with more experience?

Well, here's what I do. Worry worry worry!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Strange Portents

Unexplained things have been happening around here.

Strange. Yesterday's unseasonably, unnaturally warm weather, something like 70 degrees Fahrenheit, here where I live. Midwinter and too hot to wear a coat. Yes, strange. But not really unprecedented.

Weird. A presidential primary coming to Virginia when there's still something to decide. Now that's strange. Normally the question of who will be each political party's candidate has been settled long before our primary election rolls around, with the nominees left to be confirmed by general acclamation at the national conventions. Our choices are forestalled by the contenders' simply dropping away, one after another, based on returns in other states, before our turn to vote arrives. This leaves the anointed candidates not greatly interested in advertising or making appearances in our state, so we see little of them. This time, though, the media are talking about Virginia as "the next battleground!" Strange. Still, who knows? Another candidate dropped out just today. There are still a few days before we go to the polls.

And strangest. A blazing comet with a long, fiery tail, streaking through the sky. No, just kidding. I made that one up.

But this ball of cotton yarn, now...

... for this unearthly price.

Yes, that's sixteen cents. Plus tax.

I had visited a local chain store in search of a particular pattern booklet from one of the large yarn manufacturers. Disappointed in my quest, I dallied a little among the yarns. It's hard, sometimes, to leave completely empty-handed. And somehow this ball of worsted-weight cotton in the pretty Rosewood colorway came with me to the register for check-out.

Imagine my surprise when the cashier asked me to hand over a cool seventeen cents. I paused for a second, nonplussed, then said I was sure there was some mistake. I told her I was certain it should be more than that. That it had surely been mis-coded in their computerized system. She said, no, it must have been on clearance. (Honestly, I don't think so.) I told her I felt bad. She congratulated me on a great deal. I thought about trying to give her an extra dollar or two. She thought about whether she should go buy a few balls for herself. Finally, although it was certainly a mistake, I realized there was no way to fix it. I had done my best. I might as well enjoy my strange little bit of good fortune.

But what could it portend?

Well, this, perhaps. A Lacy Round Cloth. :)

Now, I've never been one for knitting cotton. But the cult of washcloth-makers has been calling faintly to me, join us, join us, ever since I saw the flower-shaped chenille washcloth in Weekend Knitting. And some people seem to love making washcloths. Just wander around smariek's site a little; you'll see. As for me, I'm hardly tempted by their eldritch cries; they'll never really be able to draw me in.

But a hand-knit facecloth of this pretty cotton and a bar of handmade soap would make quite a nice hostess gift for some occasion or other. And then there was a cloth that had a little sheep, with a woolly coat made all of bobbles....

Strange portents, indeed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Waitangi Day

Checking my calendar this morning, I found that today is Waitangi Day. My curiosity piqued, I learned that Waitangi Day is New Zealand's national holiday, commemorating the 1840 signing of the Waitangi Treaty between Maoris and European settlers. It seems to be roughly comparable to our 4th of July holiday in the United States, but with more complications. Wikipedia provides helpful suggestions for how to celebrate Waitangi Day, here. Of course, in the Southern Hemisphere, it's midsummer this time of year. Why not have a sausage sizzle, indeed?

I lack the cultural context, but, as a knitter, I can't help but be tickled by any reminder of the country that brought me these:

Sheep socks!

Sheep refrigerator magnet!

Not to mention quite a few yarn and spinning fiber mementos, among them the felted merino yarn for the Pine Bark sweater that I'm happily knitting away on now. It's getting exciting and a wee bit suspenseful. Exciting, because I've nearly reached the top of the first sleeve. When I get there, maybe I can pin the pieces together and get an idea of how the whole affair is going to work out. :) Suspenseful, because I'm starting to have some irrational worries about whether the yarn will go far enough.

I think it can, I think it can ....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Round up the Usual Setbacks

Knit it, Sam. Knit it again.

The Pine Bark sweater is proceeding apace. But not without its share of reversals.

I got to spend a goodly amount of time on Pine Bark this weekend. Some of it going... backwards. I think I have yet to make a project where I knit straight through from beginning to end without ripping or picking back or otherwise re-doing some significant fraction of the work. This may be because, as far as I can remember, I never really went through much of a rectangle-knitting stage; scarves, washcloths, the kind of thing where you just knit along straightforwardly from start to end.

Instead, I jumped pretty quickly into hats and sweaters. Hence, messing up on the tricky parts, figuring out that I messed up and where, and ripping back to correct mistakes has been pretty much a way of life. For the most part, I take it philosophically. Oh, I might gnash my teeth and throw off sparks for a while, but I don't mean anything by it. I figure it's all part of the process that has to be gotten through to get to the eventual triumphant finish.

Adding a little extra spice to the kinds of mistakes I can make following somebody else's directions are the even more kinds that come from making up a pattern of my own. There has been a usual-sized helping of those in the Pine Bark sweater. Aside from row-or-two-at-a-time mess-ups on the stitch patterns at the edges, there have been bigger ones. I mentioned earlier that I found I had miscalculated the back neck width (not allowing for the width of the edging on both sides of the neck) causing one moderate bout of ripping and reknitting.

That dealt with, I got to work knitting my way up the front, and had quite a good time at it. I made it halfway up the placket for the notched neckline and then decided it was going to hang a little too low on the chest. So I had another cathartic session of ripping and reknitting to place it half an inch higher. All that work for a half-inch change? Yes; it will make a definite improvement. I'm certain of it. Pretty sure. Well, I hope, anyway.

Then I made it halfway up the decreases shaping the neckline and realized I didn't have enough stitches left on the needles for the shoulder line -- already -- and I wasn't done decreasing. Uh-oh. That couldn't be good. Hmmm. How could it have happened? I studied the knitting and my drawing, meticulously plotted out on graph paper, to figure out what went wrong. Oh yes, it was meticulous, a nice curved neck with little stepped decreases... stepping their way down from the wrong number of stitches! So back again I ripped, to the top of the placket where the curve begins. No matter. It's all part of the forward progress. Remain calm.

Finally, I got the front done. At least, I think it's done. At least, whatever mistakes are lurking there are undiscovered as yet. So I'm now barreling my way through the first sleeve. I did find mistakes in my increase calculations, but, cleverly, I managed to spot them before the actual knitting started. I knit a couple of rows after the cuff on the wrong needle size, but correcting that was kid stuff. Hardly took any forbearance at all.

Now all that remains of sleeve number one is a couple more acres of dun-colored stockinette. I really don't mind long patches of stockinette, though, since I can comfortably knit it without looking. That lets me knit along watching TV, or with a banjo on my knee, er, laptop on my lap.

But you can bet I'm counting my rows and increases with narrow-eyed suspicion. Otherwise, who knows what they could get up to?