Friday, November 21, 2008

Chugging Along

I'm a few rounds below the sleeves. It feels like slow going. I keep reminding myself that this isn't a chunky knit, so it's going to take longer to see progress on it. Also? This thing's going to attract pet hair more strongly than a Furminator.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Strange Public Lives of Birds, Part 2

Remember when there were only two of them?

Our office park has been overrun by turkeys. We stood in my soon-to-not-be-my-boss's office and counted them. Thirty-five birds had gathered on the patch of grass outside his window. They'd been out in the parking lot a few minutes earlier, a couple of the hens perched on the roof of a minivan, most of them wandering around the cars.

Of course, this meant that everyone in the building with a camera had to come out and take a picture, so then we had two flocks circling the parking lot, one flock of turkeys and one flock of people holding their cameras at arm's length to try to get the closest shot possible of a puffed-out tom.

The turkeys made a long circle through the parking lot and came back to the shaded grass. This might have seemed like a smart strategic move, because very few of us had cameras equipped to shoot in that light, so they'd found a way to be left alone. Then again, they're turkeys. I don't think they're capable of strategic thinking. Yes, I know, noble creature being underestimated by the arrogant humans and we don't understand animal intelligence and they probably evolved from dinosaurs so they've been around a lot longer than we have and blah blah blah, alright? Nothing against the turkeys, but it's not like they're going to form a war college or anything.

As evidence, I present this picture. This is what happens when turkeys turn and take flight and they don't see the five-story building in their path. This, friends, is turkey snot on a window.

"It literally smacked the snot out of itself. Why did Ben Franklin think that this should be our national bird?"

"Well, he (Franklin) was kind of heavy. Maybe he liked them because they were the only birds he could catch."

In other news, here's yesterday's progress on Ingenue. I'm halfway done with the increase section. It's not coming along as fast as KnottyGnome's, but it is coming along. I love the colors of hers. I wish I had more green in my stash.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Did I finish it on time? Yes, yes I did. Do I love it? Yes...sort of. It could be a wee bit narrower and a smidge longer in both the sleeves and the body, and it'll probably benefit from a row of crochet along the inside of the neck to keep it from sliding down my shoulders, but it doesn't NEED any of those things and everyone seems to love it as it is, so I'll probably never lengthen or tighten up any of the edges.

Did I wear it proudly to my dearest friend's wedding? Uh, yeah, about that. You know how Tulare in November is usually a grey, misty affair? Fog caressing the ridges of the fallow ground and all that? Perfect weather for a wool capelet over a heavy jersey dress? Funny thing about that. It was hot and sunny on Saturday. Record-breaking heat and surprisingly strong sun. I put the sweater on to shield my back from the burning solar rays, but it was back off again within seconds each time I tried. So now I have a sunburnt neck and cleavage, the itchiest kind of sunburn, by the way, but no modeled pictures of my little sweater.

Anthropologie-Inspired Capelet for the gauge and the number of stitches to cast on, but it's my own beyond that.

Bouton d'Or Dandy in 'Raisin', Anny Blatt Victoria in 'Chocolate', probably no more than three hundred yards of each. Once I recount the Dandy left in my stash, I'll have an exact yardage measurement. Both yarns were from the stash, so it's another stash-bust quick hit. Woohoo!

Boye Interchangeables with the size 13 tips for most of it, Brittany 13s for the sleeves. I'd forgotten how much of a difference a sharper point makes when knitting certain yarns. The Brittany needles seem really blunt when compared to the Boyes. I used the Brittanys for the sleeves because it was easier than continually pulling the stitches up onto the needles from the Boye cable. The transition from the join to the body of the needle is really steep on the larger sizes, so my stitches kept tightening up as they slid down to the cable. I spent a lot of time grabbing them between my fingers and working them up to the end so that I could knit them.

I started on Monday night, and I finished seaming the arms on Friday night. If I could string the hours together, I'd say it was about a ten-hour job. If I'd had a long, straight, aluminum 13 needle, it probably would have taken about half that amount of time.

Modifications/Design Notes
I thought I'd try something a little different, so I added short rows along the bottom of the whole sweater to give it a little cut-away action. I started wrapping and turning at six stitches from each front edge, then repeated at twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, and so on, until I'd done a couple of w&ts that would show up at the back. I didn't go all the way to the center of the back with them. In the flat picture, it looks like this would give me a little bit curved edge on the back. When I wear it, the edge looks almost straight. I have to imagine that this thing would ride up something fierce if I didn't add a lot of shaping to it.

The original Anthropologie capelet had short sleeves, but I thought my version would look better with at least an elbow-length sleeve. I knit twenty rows down on the sleeve, increased nine stitches evenly across the width, then knit another six or seven rows and a four-row garter border. Why'd I knit the arms flat? No needle suitable for knitting them in the round. I tried with the Boyes, but the stitches looked so bad that I had to unravel all of that sleeve and start over.

What else is different? I kept it stockinette-side out. There's no ribbing. The increases are kfb instead of yarnovers. It's not really an AIC. I keep trying to make it, and I keep making something else.

When I hugged the bride's father, he said, "Long time no see! Showing more chest than I remember!" Thanks, bride's father! That's just the kind of compliment a girl loves to hear. Realizing that I'd knit a perfect boob frame, I scrambled to find a way to make it more modest. As it turns out, the stitches on the front edge are so loose that one can easily thread the tie cords through them and lace up the sweater. The bride's stepdaughters suggested this modification. Thanks, bride's stepdaughters! I might crochet some loops to the fronts to make it easier to do this in the future.

There is one picture of the sweater and the dress together under the blinding rays of the unforgiving sun. Guess what? I don't have that picture with me. Guess what else? The colors of the sweater and the dress don't match under intense light. The two look like they were meant to go together under most other lighting, though, so the little sweater's still going to be permanently paired with the dress.

I'm sorry I don't have more FO pictures, but I didn't make time to take them so now I don't have them and I don't want to wait until I take more to post about the project because I just want to move on, you know?

If I'd known it was going to be ninety degrees last Saturday, and if I'd known that other women were going to be less dressy than I am on a typical Tuesday at work, I might not have bothered making this sweater. I put a lot of pressure on myself to finish it on time, and knitting under pressure makes me stressy.

And bitchy, the Woman. Don't forget bitchy. Where were my hours of soothing ear massages? Replaced by your screechings of 'Buddy, for Christ's sake! Shut your pie-hole! Don't get fur on that! Stop f$*king with the dog! JeeSUS!' I am distraught, the Woman. - Buddy the Cat

I'm sorry, Buddy. I know I wasn't pleasant to deal with last week.

I'm sorry as well, the woman. Sorry for what your attitude forced me to do on the bedroom carpet. You know that I have a nervous stomach. - BtC

Well, given that response, perhaps it wasn't worth it. But I don't know. Bird's been my friend since the fifth grade, and that's worth working hard to look a little snazzy. I'm so happy for her.

Bird and I have had some grand adventures in our time. Our nicknames alone would make great titles for children's stories. "Bird and Banana Beseige the Burger King" or "Bird and Banana Beleaguer the Bovines". No, not cow tipping, because that'd be cruel, and Bird and I would never have done anything purposely to hurt those cows. We loved them. Besides, cows don't necessarily sleep standing up. They spring to their feet pretty quickly when a camera flash goes off in their faces, though. And then, startled and confused, they pee. For several minutes. I don't know exactly how long, because we were chased back to our car by a ranch-hand shouting at us in Portuguese before they'd finished. I need to track down the pictures and find the time to tell the stories, but that's for another day.

Now I can get back to my NaKniSweMo project, Ingenue. I finished the yoke last night and I'm on the upper body and sleeves. Ahhh. Little needles and round after round of stockinette. Oh, how I've missed you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

third world hell hole spitting ground

The readers have spoken. Thank you, readers! Capelet it is.

I'm four inches into it, with another three and a half to go before separating the sleeves. It took a little less than an hour last night, with most of that time taken up by struggling to find the right needles to use with this combination of yarns. This is one situation where my beloved Brittany Birch needles are a bad choice. The yarns tightened up on them so badly that I couldn't get the stitches to move to the end of the needles. It's now being knit on Boye Needlemaster size 13 US, which is giving me three stitches per inch.

This is one strand of Dandy and one strand of Victoria. I like how it's turning out so far, shiny just often enough to give it some zing, but not all-over flashy.

I've already deviated from the pattern quite a bit. I did a garter neckline instead of ribbing, and I'm doing kfb increases instead of yarnovers. I'm planning on making it much longer, and it's going to have 3/4 length flared sleeves. All of these things might change as I get closer to the deadline.

What's with that subject line? I sometimes get bored and start reading through the comments in the articles on SFGate. This one was about the California State University system tightening up its enrollment process. Somehow, the conversation devolved to the point where one of the commenters began complaining, at length in several posts, about loogies on the sidewalk at SFSU. "It's not just on the ground! They'll spit on your car! People spitting everywhere! They'll spit on your shoes! It's DISGUSTING!" I'd almost believe that the comments are a joke intended to lighten the heated discussion, but what if I'm wrong? What if the campus is really overrun by serial expectorators? I just grossed myself out a little.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quick Pick. Seriously. Quick! Pick!

Quick! I have to make a decision and I have to make it soon-ish. I own this dress. Bought it at a consignment store for forty bucks, because really? Two hundred and fifty smackers for this thing, Betsey?

I have this yarn, about six hundred yards of the Anny Blatt Victoria, and a thousand of the Bouton d'Or Dandy. This is the other color I was talking about in the Alexandra posts, the raisin color.

I'm going to a wedding next weekend in Tulare, a place not necessarily known for its mild, spaghetti-strap suitable climate in mid-November. I realized this weekend that I would be unable to find and buy anything that would go with this dress in the stores, because it's kind of an odd color and I've kind of blown my clothing budget for the next six months on some basics at Ann Taylor Loft. Also, as the dress was only forty bucks, it seems silly to spend more than that in time and money for an accessory to wear with it. I subsequently realized that I have two yarns that match perfectly with the dress. I then realized that I had less than a week to decide what to make and knit it. I need help!

Here are the things to consider:

- I do NOT look like the model. When I gain weight, even a pound, I thicken up around the middle first. Not saying that I wouldn't want or wear a cropped sweater, but it's something to keep in mind.

- Accountant Boy and I are the photographers at the wedding. This may play into the decision between shawl and shrug/sweater. It might be awkward with the constant readjusting.

- I have four days to do whatever I'm going to do. During the drive to Tulare, I'm going to be sitting in the back seat with Winston, who gets carsick if the road isn't completely straight and smooth. I will not be able to knit on the drive. Sure, I've done this kind of close timing thing before, but I'd rather not do it again.

My choices are:

- Swamp Witch - I think I could knock this out in an evening or two. It'd be a skein or two of Dandy and Victoria knit together on big needles. It wouldn't be as bulky as the one pictured. I could, decide at a point during the knitting to bind it off, sew up the sides and make it a shrug, or knit it full-length and put some buttons along one side so that it'd be convertible. I saw a pattern like that a few days ago and thought it was brilliant. This is, therefore, the most flexible option.

- Carie Cropped Cardigan from Fitted Knits (Ravelry Link) - I like the neck shaping, and I'd be willing to spare the two or three hundred yards of Dandy to make it. On the other hand, it's going to pull in and button right where I don't need a button if I want to avoid having people ask if I'm pregnant. (It's the curse of the thick-middled petite gal, that question. My usual response is, "No! And by the way, f&$k YOU!", but I don't think that'd be appropriate at my oldest friend's wedding.) I could modify the lower band so that it was more flattering, maybe have it cut away instead of fastening.

- Anthropologie-Inspired Capelet - I've always liked it, and my attempt to make a smaller-gauge version earlier this summer wasn't a complete failure, although I never actually wear it because, well, see constant whining above re: my torso. This is my least likely choice, because the way the fronts slant down and away toward the widest point of my chest, but it'd also be the fastest, so it's in the running.

I need to decide in the next couple of hours, because I want to cast on at lunch. Help!

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Way, Way Back

"That sweater is so '70s!"

I don't remember which of them said it, Daisy or The Wolf's girlfriend, but that what what was exclaimed when I pulled out the pattern for this sweater.

"Actually, it's from 1984, not the '70s," I replied defensively. "I think it's going to look cute, and not in a retro, half-mocking, 'look how self-assuredly I wear these completely dated clothes because I am unconventional' way."

"Oh my God, it IS totally '70s!" That would almost certainly have come from The Wolf's girl, because I remember being inwardly annoyed about it, as she wasn't even born yet, being at most only a year older than my pattern leaflet. What did she know about anything before the smothering flannel waves of the grunge movement?

There wasn't much point in discussing it with Daisy, as she has a degree from Parsons and did some fashion drawing while she was there, so she'd know a little more about it than I would. She was at Parsons while I was in high school. I remember my wardrobe from back then - stirrup pants, coordinating knee-length sweaters, spiral perm - and those memories are strong enough to remind me that I have no place telling anyone else anything about fashion.

"Well, anyway, I'm giving it a go, so..." My sentence trailed off into dead air as I walked away, but it continued on in my mind. " I guess we'll just see who's making disco jokes when it's done. This is going to be a great, timeless sweater."

I feel protective of this pattern. We've traveled a long road together. Way back in 1993, when I was in school at Santa Barbara, I signed up for a knitting class. Our first projects weren't scarves or hats. No, our instructor, who may or may not have taught beginning knitters before, suggested that we dive right into sweaters if sweaters were what we wanted to make. Knowing what I know now, I'd probably have recommended at least one rectangular scarf.

Anyway, my first sweater was going to be a seafoam green turtleneck. I bought a Patons booklet with several variations of very basic sweaters, and enough seafoam green yarn to make my first knitted garment. The problem with this was that the patterns were all designed for DK-weight yarn, and there was something like three inches of ribbing at the lower hem. I don't know if you remember your very first knitting project, or how slow you were in the beginning, but I remember how slow I was. Five classes in, I was still knitting that ribbing while the other students were learning how to seam. Every Thursday night, I sat at the little round table at the back of In Stitches and fell further and further behind. Everyone else laughed and had a good time while I concentrated on the same section of ribbing with my tiny needles. I felt like crying.

The instructor noticed my distress during the sixth week and suggested that I pick out a different project that would use bigger needles. That project was Crystal Palace '206 - Alexandra'. Not surprisingly, they didn't have the yarn called for in the pattern. For all I know it had been discontinued in 1985. To this day, I've never found any information about it. She looked at the pattern gauge and picked a substitute based on stitch count. Here's why I think she might not have been all that experienced. She picked Lambs Pride Bulky. Like I said, I don't know anything about Alexandra, but I'd bet that it's probably more of a lofty worsted or aran weight than truly bulky. But the pattern said 3.5 stitches per inch, so that's what we grabbed out of the bins, nine skeins of Lamb's Pride Bulky in a color of blue that they don't make anymore, but was somewhat akin to Grover from Sesame Street. I dove happily into my new project.

I didn't finish before the end of the class, and because money was tight for us as college students, I didn't sign up for the next round. I finished it on my own a few months later, and the results were predictably bad. I didn't know how to seam, barely remembered how to bind off, and didn't know thing one about wool care. When the sweater was finished, I was able to stand it up on the counter without anything inside it. It was as dense as plate armor. "Maybe if I wash it in hot water it'll loosen up..." You can guess at what happened next.

I didn't knit again for a long time. In 2002, while on a trip to JoAnn's to buy fabric for a cushion, I picked up a skein of green yarn from a bargain bin. I only remembered how to do a long-tail cast on and how to knit, not purl. I cast on and knit until I ran out of yarn, and Daisy had to show me how to bind off. I still have that scarf, the green Lion Brand Homespun scarf. That simple rectangle, and seeing the things that Daisy was able to do with her knitting, really started me on it. I taught myself everything beyond casting on, knitting and purling from reading Stitch N' Bitch. If you ask me how long I've been knitting, I'll say six years, but really it's more like fifteen with a long break in the middle.

I still have the Paton's booklet with the turtleneck, v-neck and crew neck pullovers and cardigans. They're hideous by today's standards, clearly out of date. You wouldn't think such a thing is possible for something so simple, but if I'd taken a picture of that pattern booklet, you'd see that I'm right. Two years ago, the seafoam yarn became Bristow.

I kept the blue monstrosity around until a couple of years ago, when I finally steeled my nerve enough to throw it out. I wish I still had that sweater, because it'd be fun to compare it to this one. Maybe it's better this way.

Crystal Palace Yarns '206 - Alexandra'. This pattern was published in 1984. I purchased it in 1993. It was the second knitting pattern I ever purchased.

37" (small) to fit my bust at approximately 35" without padding. If I assume that the stitches relaxed by a quarter-stitch per inch, that makes this sweater about 40" at the bust, which is probably about right based on how it's fitting right now. If I'd wanted it to fit the way it does on the model, I'd probably have needed to knit the large. And I'd need to be the size of a petite wood sprite. Look at how big the arms are, even at her wrists.

Bouton d'Or Dandy in Cordouan, 70% wool/30% silk, knit at 3.5 st/in. It's relaxed to about 3.25 st/in after wearing it for a few hours, which has given it an even nicer drape and a little bit of fuzziness.

I got this yarn from the clearance bin at Fashion Knit. I really like it, which can only mean that it's been discontinued.

Brittany Birch 6 US for the ribbing, 9 US for the body. Addi Turbo 16" circular, size 10 US for the neck. The Addi being slightly smaller than a standard size 10 and my gauge being tighter in the round evened everything out. There's no noticeable difference in size between the body and the cowl ribbings.

October 19 to November 1st. I was aiming for a week, but two weeks still isn't bad. I don't think I could have done it much faster. The sixteen inches of cowl ribbing made me feel like I was knitting an entire second sweater body.

I tried really hard to knit this exactly to pattern - no knitting in the round to avoid seams, no changing the drop sleeves to set-in or raglan, no getting rid of some of the yoke ribbing. I don't know what put that idea into my head. I guess I thought it'd be fun to reknit this sweater now and see if the original pattern would hold up over time.

I did make a couple of changes. I went all the way out to the shoulders with the ribbing stair-steps at the yoke because I remembered the way my original sweater looked with only the few columns of ribbing going up to the neck. It looked like an ant poison stake. Didn't want a repeat of that visual. Have I mentioned that ant stakes are scented with chemicals that smell like peanut butter to insects and small animals? Have I also mentioned that Winston is especially fond of peanut butter and of chewing plastic? As it turns out, the newer, safer ant stakes aren't all that toxic to larger dogs or to people, so he suffered no ill effects from crunching down on the stake and licking out the gooey insides. But ribbing that might remind me of an ant stake every time I look in the mirror? Let's not.

I shortened the body by two inches, which was easy to do as the two pieces are shapeless rectangles. I simply started the yoke ribbing sooner. Finally, because I thought seaming the length of a cowl neck would be difficult and make the cowl unattractive, I knit that in the round.

I'm really happy with it, even though it doesn't look quite like the picture on the leaflet. I like that the cowl's smaller, almost like a really relaxed turtleneck. I honestly don't know how they got it to look like it did on the model. In addition to being allover tiny, she must have had a very, very slender neck.

I used up another 850 yards from my stash, and now I know how far 850 yards of aran weight yarn will go. There's a lot of yarn still out there in the garage. I need these benchmark projects to figure out what I can do with it. In fact, I have another twelve hundred yards of this yarn in a darker color, and two skeins in a toffee shade. Now I know that it's enough to make a roomy pullover with a 16" ribbed cowl.

I love this sweater. I kind of still wish I had the more drapey, twelve-inches-of-positive-ease sweater from the leaflet, but not enough to turn around and knit it again right away. When I do make another one, I'll knit more of it in the round and maybe, maybe set in the sleeves and switch to much bigger needles for the cowl. I don't know, though. Maybe I'd do it just like this one. It came out alright without all of that. I don't think I'll look back in twenty years and say, "Can you believe what we were wearing back then? Oh my God, it's SO 2008!"

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Ocean Blue

I changed my mind about the Black Water Abbey sweater. That might be the December or January project. After seaming Alexandra, which was a big pain in the ass because a reverse stockinette edge is harder to keep track of than right-side stockinette edge, and after trying on the slouchy end product (pictures and FO post pending), I decided that I needed something with less finishing, and something that would be more form-fitting. I've swatched for Ingenue from Custom Knits and I'm going to cast on for it today.

Look at this stuff. I've got two balls of it, about eleven hundred yards if I've guessed right on the weight and size. It's a gorgeous inky blue with a little bit of charcoal. I'm going to be knitting it along with a strand of Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro, purchased way back during Stitches 2005, in black. It's a Stitches reunion project! The carryalong is giving the Interlacements mystery wool more softness and just enough of a gauge boost to bring it up from light worsted to regular old worsted. I've been knitting with some pretty heavy aran yarns lately, so it's weird to work with a thinner weight.

In other news, A.B. and I drove to Santa Cruz yesterday to see the historically accurate replica of the NiƱa. That's a teensy little vessel! We had no idea it was so small. I'm pretty sure the Alcatraz ferries are twice as big.

If you're further down the California coast from Santa Cruz, be on the lookout for it in a port near you between now and the new year. It's worth the five bucks to climb aboard and gaze out over the bow toward the open ocean.