Friday, January 11, 2008

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Why am I sitting in my car for these pictures? Three reasons. First, I love my car and I don’t think it gets enough exposure in the media. I love you Volksie! Second, although I finished this sweater a month ago and I’ve worn it at least twice a week since, all through the holiday season, nobody has ever taken my picture in it. It’s a camera deflecting garment. It became clear to me that I’d have to take the pictures myself. Third, and most importantly, this sweater has some history. No staid, indoor photo shoot would do it justice.

I bought this yarn at an estate sale a few years ago. The recently departed must have been a fiber hoarder of exceptional skill. Daisy and I were disappointed when we pulled up to the house and saw people walking away with bulging lawn bags. “We’re too late!”

Turned out that we weren’t late at all. The entire yard was blanketed with tarps and boxes full of yarn of all weights, fibers and colors. We each ended up hauling away three bags of skeins, cones and half-finished projects. The woman’s daughter and her boyfriend were selling everything off so that they could afford to take care of their much-younger sister. They had no idea how much to charge for any of it. Daisy’s theory, most probably correct, is that the kids just wanted to be done with it, done with cleaning out their packrat mother’s house and the responsibilities she’d left them with, and they didn’t care if they made a fair amount of money. When I asked how much they wanted for my bags, the boyfriend said, “I dunno…thirty bucks?”

Knowing how much the nine skeins of Skye alone would cost if I paid the full US price for them, thirty bucks seemed like too much of a steal. “Look, I’ve got at least a hundred bucks worth of just one yarn at the bottom of one of the three bags. I don’t think the rest of it’s worth much, but I know how much that one yarn is worth, and I don’t want to rip you off. Can I give you $125 for the whole bunch?” I’m the worst bargainer ever. He seemed surprised, and he thanked me for my honesty, even making an exception and taking a personal check for payment. I hope those kids are O.K.

So the yarn had a story even before I started knitting with it.

I kept it in the stash, waiting for the perfect project to do justice to its provenance. Right after we moved into the new house and I saw how much yarn I really have, I gave up on thinking any of the yarn is too special to be used. I plucked it from the big bin, thumbed through my old issues of Interweave Knits, and a match was made.

This sweater got around, even before it was completed. I started it on the train to Tulare, and finished most of the back while waiting outside the Hanford Amtrak station. I knit the left half on the straight part of the road to Bass Lake for Thanksgiving. I knit the right half on the plane to Arizona for this year’s disaster recovery test. When I blocked the fronts and laid them out on towels at the hotel, I realized that I’d screwed up the right front completely, starting with the first cable cross above the ribbing. I undid the right front down to the top of the cable, dropped the cable stitches all the way down to the bottom inch of the sweater, then spent at least a couple of hours working them back up. It was still faster than reknitting the whole front. I knit one of the sleeves during the DR test, because my part of the test is about ten minutes of actual work. I seamed the body on my last night in Scottsdale.

I started the other sleeve while sitting in line at the airport. I haven’t talked much about my air travel adventure, because I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to say about it. Let’s just say that one of my coworkers isn’t a good flyer. Let’s further say that tranquilizers might have helped the situation, as they apparently did on the flight to Phoenix, but that said coworker had already taken all of them before that first flight, leaving none for the flight home. Let’s also say that telling the 109 other passengers on the plane that your manager a motherf$%ker and trying to get your coworkers to hit you so that the plane won’t take off isn’t the best way to gain sympathy for your panic attack. Neither is trying to open the door of the plane. Guess what else doesn’t work? Kicking the cockpit door so hard that things start falling off shelves in the forward galley. Finally, let’s conclude by saying that this kind of thing results in a lot of paperwork, as several local and federal agencies have to get involved to take reports on the incident. We sat at the gate for three hours. I got a lot of knitting done, in between defending wacky coworker’s manager to the other passengers and eating peanuts. (“Did his boss really say he’d be fired if he didn’t get on the plane?” “No, nothing of the sort. His boss is probably the kindest man on this plane. He offered to pay for the rental if the guy wanted to drive back to California.” “So he’s NOT a motherf$%ker?” "No, nice little lady sitting next to me, he's most definitely not a motherf$%ker.")

Exhausted from all of November’s travel excitement, the sweater and I spent the first week of December recuperating at home. I finished the neck and sewed in the arms while sitting on my couch, watching ‘Perry Mason’.

Details Section

Sienna Cardigan from Interweave Knits – Fall 2006

Yarn and Notions
Colinette Skye in ‘Claret’. No idea how long ago this yarn was dyed, but it’s a color that isn’t produced anymore, and it’s dye lot 001. By my calculations, I used a little more than 700 yards.

I bought the buttons at JoAnn’s. When I started the sweater, they were exactly what I had in mind. I thought I’d have to wait, to put so-so buttons on until I got a chance to go to Britex or look for them at Stitches, but I wandered in to the fabric store and there they were, just enough of them on the rack for my needs. I think they cost about four bucks total.

Brittany Birch size 7, and a Clover circular needle, also a 7.

Small. It was too small when I finished it and put it on for the first time, but it fit perfectly after a couple of hours of wear. Hooray! I finally learned my lesson! Knit just a tad small, because wool stretches. You’d think I’d have known that before now, but you’d be wrong. I have a closet full of sweaters that are a half size too big because I knit them to fit right off of the needles.

I started it early in November, and I finished knitting it in early December. I took a break in there to knit the two-tone shrug, then came back and finished this one on December 11th.

I wanted the sleeves to match the body, so I gave them about three inches of ribbing.

Because my yarn is pure wool rather than an alpaca blend, the sweater has a different drape. This, along with my aversion to making a sweater that would accentuate my love handles by poofing out above the ribbing, lead me to add waist shaping. I did the standard decrease every six rows five times, increase every eight rows five times thing. Yes, it still looks like the sweater is accentuating my love handles, but it's not. When laid flat, the body of the sweater curves in elegantly from the ribbing to the waist. The love handles are doing the accentuating work all on their own. Yeah, yeah. I'm working on it, alright?

Finally, I don’t know why I thought the neckline shaping should happen after a full repeat of the chart, not in the middle of it, but that’s what I did. That, combined with a couple of cable repeats that were a bit longer than they should have been, lead to the neckline being much higher than the original pattern. I had to do some guesswork to make it up to the shoulder bindoff with the right amount of stitches.

I love this sweater. Like I said above, I’ve worn it at least a dozen times. I think Accountant Boy must be sick of seeing it by now.

I adore the collar, and how it stands up so cleverly with just a couple of increases at each side of the nape. The picot edge isn’t even really a picot edge – it’s just smartly planned bind offs at each edge.

When I picked the yarn out of the bin, and picked the pattern, I wasn’t especially excited about the project. It was a throwaway project, something I was going to do just to say that I’d gotten something done, something I could work on while traveling. I felt that way about it when I finished it, when I first tried it on, and for the first couple of hours that I wore it. “It’s kind of…it makes me look broad…it’ll probably end up sitting in my closet…at least it’s finished…” Then I caught sight of it in a mirror, and I fell in love with it. Sometimes that happens.


Batty said...

What an interesting story! Now that's SABLE for sure. A whole front yard full of yarn in large bags. A knitter's dreams and plans passed on to others because she had more knitting than time... wow.

Sienna looks beautiful. The color is perfect on you, as is the fit, nothing broad or questionable about it. Very flattering.

Trillian42 said...

It's beautiful. Really lovely on you, and a great color.

knottygnome said...

sienna looks fabulous! i think more people should model in their cars. :-)

Beverly said...

So pretty! It fits you perfectly. I love that the yarn has a good story.

Eryn said...

The sweater is beautiful. I'm still sniggering over the air travel story.

Christy D. said...

This is not only a gorgeous sweater, but a great story. From the estate sale to support orphaned children, to the psychotic air-traveler...I cried, I laughed, I was on the edge of my seat..... :)

Boogs said...

Superb! Great story too! That colour really suits you.

Anonymous said...

What a story!

I love how the sweater turned out.

turtlegirl76 said...

What a great story! The sweater is fabulous!