Monday, July 30, 2007

Running with Scissors

Perhaps not surprisingly, the first sleeve on the Bavarian Jacket was less than satisfactory, so for the second I decided to do something a little different. Still unwilling to rip back all of that applied i-cord, I knitted up stitches where the armhole would have been if I had been able to follow simple directions in the first place and knitted the sleeve cap according to the pattern. The second sleeve actually sits on my shoulder, like a proper set-in sleeve.

Bavarian Jacket Sleeve Cap

Unlike a normal set-in sleeve, however, mine had a built-in shoulder pad.

Bavarian Jacket Surgery

What to do, what to do. I started to try a crocheted steek, but crochet hooks are awkward for me, and I wasn't quite sure how to make it work in garter stitch. So, for the first time in my life, I thought to myself, this would be easier to do on a machine.

I still had my swatch handy, so I had a few practice runs.

Bavarian Jacket Surgery - trial run

Yes, that is the manual. I couldn't remember where the lever for the presser foot was. Or how to wind a bobbin. Thankfully, despite not really knowing what I'm doing, I'm kind of fearless when it comes to sewing machines.

Bavarian Jacket Surgery

A few snips later, and I have a reshaped armhole, with no excess fabric, and no cursing involved.

Bavarian Jacket Surgery

Unfortunately, this does mean that I'll have to rip back the first sleeve and repeat. But I think I can skip knitting a "shoulder holder" to keep the sleeve caps from drooping, as recommended in the pattern. Between casting off at the collar, seaming the shoulders instead of weaving, and 'steeking' the armhole, those sleeve caps should stay put all by themselves.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Well, [Insert Four-Letter Word].

My new project is Elizabeth Zimmermann's Bavarian Jacket, one of her many clever garter stitch designs. It's an EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) pattern, which means that you take your gauge and multiply it by your wanted circumference to get your key number, K, and then everything that follows is a percentage of K.

So I found my K, cast on 50%, and knit the back. Then I knit the left front. Then the right front. Joined it all together. Knit up the collar. Ran i-cord around the whole mess, knit up the sleeves and started shaping the cap and that's when I realized...

Bavarian Jacket

... I've been shaping the armhole using percentages of the number of stitches I cast on for the back, 1/2K.

The only way to fix it would be to rip all of that i-cord, undo the seaming at the shoulders, and rip all three pieces back to armpit level.

I'm not going to do that.

Instead, I'll compensate. I had already compensated without realizing. When knitting the back, I noticed that my misreading of the directions gave me a very short armhole, so I pulled it back and lenghened it, and then I knit the fronts to match. Once I figured out my mistake, I also ripped back the sleeve so that I have three garter ridges instead of five before the sleeve cap shaping begins. And I've made sure that I used the right number to calculate how many sleeve stitches I should have.

Please excuse me while I go beat myself over the head with something heavy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Project Management

When it comes to knitting, I may have several things on the needles at once, but I pretty much only actively work on one thing at a time. I may not finish it before I pick up something else, but I'm not one to work on this for a bit and then pick that up and then just a little on that one over there.

Ideally, I like to have one sweater project, one or two sock projects, and maybe one lace or other project going at once. Any more than that and I start to feel pressured and anxious about the projects I haven't touched in a while.

Right now I have two lace projects going, and I haven't touched either in weeks. I'm not certain lace is for me. I don't so much mind that it's repetitive, as all knitting is repetitive in some way, and I don't mind counting because I find that oddly relaxing. I think the main problem is that I don't want lace. It may be fun to knit, but I don't have that desire for the finished product, so there is little impetus to make the lace project a priority.

You may have noticed that I have more than a couple of socks going at the moment. I let this happen because I needed something to get me back into the knitting groove after a short bit of ennui, so I let myself cast on for whatever I wanted, and that happened to be lots of socks. It's starting to bother me, though, and I'm thinking of frogging two pairs and letting the yarn mature in the stash a bit more. I have a priority list for getting through the rest.

But all of my sock knitting has left my poor hands cramped and sore, and I've been yearning for something to knit at a larger gauge, something substantial. A sweater. I've been holding off casting on because I already have the Hex Coat going, and I like knitting the Hex Coat, so I tell myself I should just work on that. However, I have almost finished one front of the Hex Coat -- we're talking mere inches from completion -- and I've decided that the fronts are probably the most interesting bits, with the undulating center portions. After that it's two sleeves and one loooong back in moss stitch, and then the other front for a treat before knitting on all of those hexagons, which I fear will be fussy. So I have refrained from knitting on the Hex Coat, because if I knit on it much more, I won't be on the good part any more. Besides, a major advantage of the Hex Coat is that I've decided not to rush it, so if I'm not feeling it, I'm not going to feel guilty about not doing it. Maybe I'll treat each piece as its own project, and break it up with other sweater projects in between.

The upshot of all of this? Justification for casting on a new sweater-type project. Something that's not too hard on the hands and that I'll want to stick with until it's done.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Somewhat Cowl

I finished this a while back and promised pictures, so here goes:

Pattern: Somewhat Cowl from Knit and Tonic
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpaca and Silk, Brick
Needles: Knit Picks Options, size 4
Satisfaction: Moderate

This may be the best fitting sweater I have knit to date. I list below Stupid Things I Did ("STID") so that others interested in this pattern may avoid my mistakes.

STID #1: When swatching, I found the yarn too slippery for my usual Options needles, so I pulled out the Needlemaster kit and found the aluminum needles just about right. Of course, when I started actually knitting the thing, I quickly grew tired of the Needlemaster joins and stiff cables and went skimpering back to my Options, and the slippery needles gave me a looser gauge.

STID #2: Like a good little knitter, and knowing that alpaca and silk can both grow when wet, I washed my swatch and took my stitch gauge from the washed swatch. Sure enough, it had grown. What I didn't do, not because I didn't think of it, but because I was too lazy to do it, was measure the difference in the row gauge and adjust my knitting for it. Therefore, when I completed the sweater and washed it, it was slightly larger around than I anticipated (see STID #1), but much longer. My carefully placed cowl now shows a little too much cleavage, and the whole thing is too long.

More STID include:
-Stitch markers? I don't need no stinkin' stitch markers! Wait, why aren't my increases lining up? [rip]
-Pattern says, "cast on x, pm, cast on x," and Carla casts on x and keeps going, only to wonder a few inches later why it seems a little small. [rip rip]

Notes on the yarn:
Knit and Tonic likes to say that bulky is as bulky does, but her figure is much different from mine. Drapey is not good for everyone. On some figures, such as mine, a yarn with some structure can make a world of difference as far as skimming over some lumps and bumps. I'd love to show you a picture of this sweater on, but I'd have to buy some sort of slimming camisole and learn Photoshop before I'd really consider it.

Further, the yarn just doesn't have enough body to keep that cowl standing up. The couple of times I've worn it, I've spent the entire day futzing with the collar trying to get it into that just right spot where it makes a cowl rather than a big U-neck while still maintaining a bit of modesty. I'd consider making this again in a worsted wool, with long sleeves.

And, lastly, be forewarned: this yarn bleeds! When I washed the swatch I made the mistake of drying it on one of my good white hand towels, and it left an orange outline. I had to rinse the sweater several times before the water was only tinged with orange rather than tinted, and then dried it on darker old towels. Because of this, I've since sent it to the dry cleaners. The wrinkles across the middle are from where they folded it over a hanger.

UPDATE: After writing this up and taking the photo, I decided to try on the sweater to see how it had fared from the dry cleaning -- and it FITS! The neckline is just about right, the short rows are back where they belong, and it hits at the hip again. Woo-hoo!!!

Anyone know where I can get one of those slimming camisoles?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sneak Peek

The first Norwegian Stocking is done. I might be wearing it now. Let's just say my left foot is much warmer than my right.

I departed from the pattern in a few ways, and I'm rather pleased with the result. I'll show you what I did when I get the second one done. If you're good at reading floats, you may already know.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I spent Sunday alternately rereading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and knitting on a Norwegian Stocking from Folk Socks. Perhaps because my attention was so divided, I had knitted several inches on the recommended size 3s before I noticed that my product was both huge and sloppy. When I showed my husband what I had done so far and he said, "That's not a sock! ... Is it?" I knew I needed to begin again.

I had read something about yarn dominance somewhere, but the lesson I took away from it was to be consistent, because it's apparent if you switch which hand holds which color. In my enthusiasm, I wasn't bothered to look it up again before starting this project. So when I started over on size 2s I made the pattern color dominant by carrying it in my left hand, which, by the way, is a right pain in the you-know-what, since I'm most comfortably a Continental knitter and most of these stitches are in the background color. The result, however, is worth a few hours of my exaggerated and awkward throwing. If I could only figure a comfortable way to wrap the yarn around my fingers, I might become a decent 'flicker.' Until then, it should be easy for me to remember that the more difficult way is the better way.

For now, though, let's just call that first one a swatch.

Vesper Redux

After looking at last week's pictures of my Vesper socks, I could no longer deny two things: that short row heel wasn't fitting, and the picot hem wasn't as cute in execution as I had hoped for it to be. Stitching it down to the first dark green row made sure that the hem was white with light green picots and dark green sawteeth (sawtooths?) all the way around, but, given the nature of the yarn, the first dark green row wasn't all the same row, and the result was a little wonky.

Therefore, I present, Vesper Redux. I took the scissors to the first sock (I must be getting brave in my old age) and cut out the heel and put in an afterthought/peasant heel in garter stitch, mostly to hide the any mismatches in pattern. And then I liked it so much, I did a garter stitch cuff, too.

Pattern: none/my own -- toe up on 64 stitches, wedge toe, garter stitch afterthought heel, vertical garter stitch cuff, my Vesper sock trick
Yarn: none other than Vesper Sock Yarn in Crew
Needles: US1 DPNs

That afterthought heel is mighty handy to have in your bag of tricks for self-striping yarns or variegated yarns that pool. I used the heel from Cookie A's Baudelaire on my Swirl Sock, and it fits well for a toe-up sock, but it disrupted the yarn's natural striping in an unfortunate way.

These may be my new favorite socks! Post-mods they remind me more of the Grinch (you know, at the end, when he's the happy Grinch) than of Slytherin.

I should get around to that second Gryffindor Argyle soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

German Stockings

At last, the German Stockings!

Pattern: German Stockings by Cookie A
Needles: 1.5 Knit Picks, combination of DPNs and 2 circulars
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Chino

Notes: I ended up ripping after the first 5 or 6 inches on the first sock because it was just too big, and reknit one size down for all measurements. Looking back, I wish I had gone down a needle size instead, or maybe in addition to, reducing the number of stitches. The cables would have traveled farther across the foot, and the overall look would have been more detailed and intricate. They did move along pretty quickly on 1.5s, though, I'm used to 1s or 0s for socks. I did modify the pattern so that the cables on the right foot cross in the opposite direction from the cables on the left foot.

This was my first experience with Lorna's Laces, and, comparing it with my in-progress Swirl Sock, I prefer working it on smaller needles. I used maybe 2 1/3 hanks. The first hank was solid tan, the second hank has some hints of green in it, and number 3 was solid tan even though I purchased them at the same time and from the same place. So the left sock is solid with some subtle green stripes on the toe, and the right sock is the opposite. It's probably something that only I would notice, but I think it makes them look a little dirty.

My only other issue is getting them to stay up. I ran elastic thread around the top and bottom of the ribbing on both socks, and still they sagged. So I knitted two strips of garter stitch, 8 stitches wide, and joined them in tubes when they were just long enough to stretch around the widest part of my calf. The garter stitch kind of matches the twisted rib cuff, and there's a lot less tugging the socks back up, although the problem isn't completely alleviated.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


So here's my little Vesper trick. When the yarn changes colors, sl 1, k 1 around, and then slip the first stitch again before continuing in plain stockinette. It creates this sawtooth effect that looks sort of fair-isle-y and disguises the color jogs. I think it's kind of nifty.

As I mentioned before, however, I've been rereading my Harry Potter in preparation for the big finale, and perhaps that has colored my thinking because I keep thinking of this as the Slytherin Sock. So of course I had to cast on for another sock in Gryffindor colors, and thus began my first argyle.

There, I'm house-neutral. For the record, the Sorting Hat placed me in Ravenclaw. I don't really have Ravenclaw-colored sock yarn in my stash, so don't look for Ravenclaw socks any time soon. Besides, I just got my Heilo order and I'm dying to cast on for the Norwegian Stockings from Folk Socks.

Now, to knit the second socks. But first I have some catching up to do if I'm going to finish Order of the Phoenix before the movie comes out.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Moving past ho hum

Over the past couple of weeks I did something I haven't done since I re-taught myself to knit. I went an entire day without knitting. And then another. None of my projects were exciting anymore. I wasn't inspired. I finished my German stockings and wasn't even anxious to photograph them (not that it has stopped raining long enough to do so). The heel wasn't working on my Gentleman's Fancy Sock, and I knitted all the way past the heel on my knee-high Welsh Country Stocking before admitting that the shaping was all wrong, making it baggy around the ankle. I ripped and re-knit and swatched a little for a new sweater, but I wasn't having much fun with it. So I focused on my Harry Potter rereading instead.

Then last night I went to my sock yarn drawer and fondled the stash, hoping something would spark, and it did. I had recently wound some Vesper sock yarn in Crew for maybe-Jaywalkers or maybe-kneehighs, had a few false starts, and put it back in the drawer. A flickr search for "Vesper" reveals a variation on two themes: the plain stockinette sock, and the Jaywalker. While sometimes it's nice to know exactly what you're going to get, it's not exaclty the ticket back to knitting nirvana. But looking at the yarn again, I thought, what if...? Yes, that could work, I'll try it. Looks good so far, how about after a few more color repeats? Oh, yes, and how's the heel going to come out? What have I been doing with two circulars, when I know that DPNs are my true love? I'm back, baby, and with any luck, I'll have a sock to show you soon!

And maybe I'll even take some pictures of those German Stockings.

Happy 4th!