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.


Bess said...

The sweater is lovely! and yes - that neck, shoulder portion of the sweater is always the most tricky for me to design, too. congratulations on completion!

Amy said...

Cathy, the sweater just looks fantastic! I can't get over how cozy it looks. Sweatshirt-soft, indeed.