Sunday, September 20, 2009

That Elusive Stopping Place

I'll put the knitting down and take care of a few other things, as soon as I get to a stopping place....

First of all, thank you, everyone! for saying such nice things about the Chanel-ish jacket. I'm very happy and very relieved that it turned out so well. And as for a photo with jingly necklaces? Well, even if I piled on all my various necklaces, I'm not sure I could achieve quite the right jingly effect, so that may have to wait a while. :)

So what did I do to entertain myself once the jacket was happily finished? I knit. Yes, I pretty much immediately grabbed some yarn and got to work. The knitting urge is strong this time of year. I had a bag of 10 skeins of Noro Silk Garden yarn, of mohair, silk, and lambswool, and I just really wanted to knit it.

I settled in one morning with a cappucino at Starbucks and stitched away contentedly. To be honest, I wasn't even especially clear on where I was going with it; I just wanted to be going. That's kind of rare for me.

I don't think, generally, that I'm what people refer to as a "process knitter" at all. I do enjoy the actual knitting very much, but I don't do it just to enjoy the motion and the beautiful yarn running through my hands. I do it to be able to create pretty things.

That's assuming, of course, that all goes well. But after all the hand-wringing and problem-solving are over, I usually do come out the other side with something I can feel good about. The out-and-out failures are, thank goodness, few and far between.

This time, I was impatient with mapping things out carefully ahead of time. I had seen a pattern in the current issue of Vogue Knitting that I thought might adapt well to the Noro striping and my 10 skeins of yarn, and I had a loose idea of what I was aiming for. (It's "Long Coat," by Coralie Meslin, pattern number 1 in the Fall 2009 Vogue Knitting, if you happen to have a copy handy.) Of course, the pattern is for a long coat with a fitted waist, and a giant sunburst design in the stitch pattern on one side, none of which I wanted. But I was quite attracted to the neckline, collar, and asymmetrical closure, and I pictured the characteristic Noro striping running along the collar and making a nice diagonal contrast to the body.

I plunged in, making decisions as I went. I decided on a cropped, high-hip length. It evolved somehow that it would be an a-line silhouette. I changed the ribbing style and depth. I left out the short-row sunburst. (It's really rather nice, but wouldn't have been the easiest to adapt to the truncated length -- and with the striping yarn, there would already be enough going on.) At least the gauge stayed the same.

The last couple of weekends, I had a number of things I really needed to get done, though. House things, and pants-hemming things, and thank-you note things, and what-have-you. I planned to put aside the knitting. After all, I'd just finished a sweater. I did pick it up a couple of times, just to knit a row or two. Or maybe a couple more. Maybe just far enough to see the next color transition. Maybe to the top of the ribbing. Or until it's time to start the armhole shaping. Oh, I'm so close, I might as well finish off the back.

Yes, I'll put it down, just as soon as I get to a stopping place. Really.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

... And Pulled Out a Plum

The Chanel-ish Cardigan Jacket is done, and everything has turned out better than I could have hoped.

Yes, I stuck in my thumb, all right. It all began with some dubious wool bought in a triumph of bargain-hunting over judgment. I'm stubborn, though, and the colors were pretty. So during last year's Tour de Fleece spinning event, I forged ahead and spun it into an attractive but not very touchable 3-ply yarn.

Though from humble beginnings, this yarn was eager to put on airs. Its nubby, tweedy look reminded me from the beginning of those thick, hairy, multicolored tweeds that are made into boxy Chanel-style jackets worn by polished-looking women with jingling necklaces and freshly touched-up lipstick. While the polish and jingling are not my typical style, the yarn did seem like it would work well in that kind of jacket. It told me so from the very first skein, once I saw the plies of charcoal, turquoise, and lavender twisted together.

I knew exactly the pattern I wanted to use, too. It is a trim, nice-looking design by Mary-Heather Cogar, published in Greetings from Knit Cafe, by Suzan Mischer. Mary-Heather's design is in worsted weight yarn, worked in a two-color stitch pattern reminiscent of a houndstooth check.

The Yarnstruck version, on the other hand, needed to be in a bulky weight yarn, on US size 11 (8 mm) needles, in one busy color. Just a bit different. A minor obstacle. I swatched and charted and converted, decided on a double moss stitch for texture, and launched the knitting.

(In the photo, you can see the eye-popping pocket lining peeking out. Christina suggested giving the whole jacket a lining, which is an interesting idea, especially as it would free me from always wearing long sleeves underneath for protection against this somewhat itchy wool. But that's more work, and, for now, I just want to declare it done. So for the time being, following the suggestion from Puff, I'll just consider it whimsical. :)

The bulky-weight knitting ate up the skeins of handspun at an alarmingly fast clip. After a while, it looked as if I wouldn't have enough left for the long sleeves. After knitting the body , I weighed the yarn that remained for the sleeves, and things did not look optimistic. OK, three-quarter length sleeves? Or even shorter? The only way to find out was to dive in and knit the first sleeve. Well, so what if the second sleeve has to be shorter. Asymmetry is in! Fashion magazines are trying to convince us to wear one-shouldered tops. Ha!

I was nervous, though, I'll say that much. As sleeve #1 grew longer, and the remaining skeins dwindled, I started thinking fondly of 7/8 length sleeves. I started the shoulder cap shaping a couple of inches early, hoping it would help just enough to let me eke out the other sleeve. And what a relief when it did. Barely.

I sewed up the seams (with other yarn, less bulky and more plentiful), and tried it the jacket on, holding my breath. What do you know? It fit, and it had full-length long sleeves! My theory is that there's enough spring in that stitch pattern that the fabric lengthens a little once it relaxes a bit. Whatever it is, it works for me.

With a light heart, I went ahead and worked the edging in a contrasting color of worsted weight yarn. (Lamb's Pride, from Brown Sheep Company, in Deep Charcoal. Lovely, lovely, single-ply wool with a touch of mohair, left over from a successful and happy past sweater project.)

It's all done, almost exactly as I pictured it, and I'm just waiting for cool enough weather to wear it to work and show it off.

And I had all this yarn left over. Three rags and tags. It would have been enough, I estimate, for about one more entire row across both sleeves.

What, me worry?