Monday, April 28, 2008

When a Gauge Swatch Isn't Enough

I swatched. I washed the swatch. I measured. I knit – to gauge, I thought. In the 5 months it took to finish this sweater I never thought to try it on, and the dimensions of the pieces seemed to match the schematic. Over the weekend I finished the collar and button band, sewed the pieces together with only two crises (putting the button band on the wrong side of one the fronts, and then sewing the sleeve to the wrong side). This morning I tried it on. Yikes! It could be a tent!

Oblique, by , Knitty, Fall 2007
Yarn: Ella Rae Classic Wool, approx. 9 skeins (1900 yds)
Needles: Denise US #8
Modifications: Omitted waist shaping; shortened cuffs

Things I like about this pattern:
  • The design, with its diagonal focus
  • The combination of lace patterns, including the twisted rib
  • The use of lace patterns with worsted weight yarn
  • Well-written pattern which was easy to follow, even after putting it down for weeks at a time
The only problem is that it is way too big. I should probably have made a size smaller, but past experience had led me to believe that sweaters can't be too big. I am looking for a solution that does not involve frogging the whole sweater and starting from scratch... as much as I enjoyed knitting it, once was enough. Controlled shrinking???

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Drops Jacket Drops off the Needles

Sometimes the yarn is absolutely right for a project, even if it isn't the yarn recommended by the pattern. That was the case with the Kathmandu Aran Tweed I bought for myself after using it for the Cobblestone sweater for R. I had thought about making another Cobblestone sweater for myself and then came upon the Drops Jacket. Here it is:

Pattern: Drops Jacket from
Yarn: Queensland Kathmandu Aran Tweed (Sea Green) – approx. 1400 yds
Size: XXXL
Modifications: Buttons omitted (forgot to put in buttonholes); Collar simplified

It was quite distressing to realize that I zipped through the second front without putting in the buttonholes. (The instructions said to do it the same way as the other front, but in reverse, and with buttonholes.) But then a quick look through the Drops Jackets on Ravelry showed that I wasn't the only one, and it looked fine with a shawl pin as a closure, or even with nothing at all. The collar modification was more intentional: The collar as shown with the original pattern seemed bulky, especially given the heavy yarn, so I made it smaller and simpler. I wasn't sure how it was going to come out, but in the end it was perfect.

With the arrival of spring, this sweater (jacket?) is perfect for those days when it is colder outside than it looks. We've had lots of those lately.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Close Call

Spring has finally come! Here is the ornamental plum tree in our front yard. It always blooms at the beginning of April and was a little late this year, when we were about to despair that winter was going to hang on forever.

One of the ironies of the arrival of spring after a too-long winter is that I am finishing up several items that we won't use until the weather turns cold again.

There is nothing like knitting to get your heartrate up, when it looks like you might not make a deadline or, even worse, you might run out of yarn. Yesterday I was about to start the edging of the Hemlock Ring Throw and realized that there wouldn't be enough yarn to complete the edging, so the last repeat of the Feather and Fan section was frogged before starting the edging. Half-way around, the remaining ball of yarn started looking very small. Too small. Miniscule. The remaining circumference was looking very, very large. What to do??? Knit faster! It was hard to take the suspense, and I could feel myself breathing harder, my pulse rate up, and the tension was still mounting as I started the last of the eight sections. What would happen if I missed by a yard? A foot? Would I ever find another skein of yarn in the same dye lot? Finally it was over...

The photo shows how much yarn was left at the end, barely enough to thread through a tapestry needle to weave in, maybe 2 inches. And that was after cheating a bit on a few of the loops in the last section. Whew! The edging takes a lot more yarn than one would think! It is now blocking and I think we will get a lot of use out of it next winter. I may even consider making another one as a gift.
Pattern: Hemlock Ring Blanket by Jared Flood, a.k.a. Brooklyntweed
Yarn: Cascade Ecological Wool, 2 skeins (956 yards less 2 inches) Color #8063
Needles: Denise #10
Size: approx. 48" diameter (blocked)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Travel knitting: a scarf, a shawl, and a hat (or 3)

Planning knitting for a trip can be a challenge. It can't be big and bulky (like an afghan or most sweaters); it has to be interesting enough to keep you from getting bored, and it can't be so complicated that it is hard to concentrate in adverse conditions like airplanes and noisy airports.

For our recent trip to South America I settled on the Kiri Shawl plus a scarf and a hat. The Kiri was a good choice pattern-wise, though my color choice – black – was probably not the wisest choice for the dim lighting of airplanes and hotel rooms. I really need a black shawl, which is why I decided on this yarn for this pattern, and the Kiri seemed like a good straight-forward design for something in a dark color, where a lot of detail would be lost. The yarn was lace-weight Zephyr, doubled. (I wound a ball off the cone, then wound yarn from the ball together with yarn from the cone. At home, I probably would have just knit with the ball and the cone without bothering to wind them together.)

Sometimes the yarn just doesn't want to be knitted into a particular pattern. I had a few balls of Filatura di Crosa 127 Print that I thought of using for a scarf in a feather-and-fan pattern, but it just wasn't working. There was lots of time on a 12-hour flight to experiment, sleep not being an option, so there was much frogging and re-knitting before I settled on a simple rectangle with yarnovers every eight rows. With the yarn that was left I was able to make two hats, the Floppy Brim Hat me and a simple ribbed cap for R. (His hat is photo-less since it is temporarily MIA.)

The other project for this trip was the North Star Tam from Arctic Lace. In the absence of quiviut yarn, I used some Yubina Laceweight Cashmere, doubled. There was a little problem with gauge, and being away from home I didn't have a wide variety of needles or other resources, so I just plugged away and then made some modifications at the end. The shape of the resulting hat isn't really a tam, but it is soft and warm and covers the ears. There was still time (and yarn) to do the scarf, but I got through two pattern repeats before deciding that I didn't love it enough to knit all those stitches in such fine yarn, so the scarf is now a permanent UFO and will eventually be frogged.

Other knitters like to work on socks while travelling, but I always seem to be at the complicated part (the heel), where I have to pay close attention to the instructions. Somehow it take more effort planning the knitting for a trip than the wardrobe. What I learned this time is that one project isn't enough... If it doesn't work out, it would be terrible to be stranded on an airplane/ship/tour with nothing to knit!

Last week I had to make an emergency trip to Florida. The flight was 3 hours each way, plus the requisite 2 hours in the airport for the departing and returning flights, so even if I had no other time to knit, there would be a solid 10 hours of knitting. There was some Colourmart cashmere in my stash left over from the oh-so-aggravating Sprinkle Lace Cardigan, and I chose the Falling Water Scarf as a gift for a friend. It is a beautiful but simple lace pattern, and it worked well in the cashmere. It was almost finished by the time I got home. This pattern is definitely a keeper... in the right yarn it would work for either a woman or a man.