Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dream: no interpretation required

Last Thursday night after Barack Obama's stunning acceptance speech I dreamed that Obama was my doctor. Seriously. And that he fixed everything, a real problem-solver. When I relayed the dream the next morning to my husband, the son of two Freudian psychiatrists (as you Knit Fix fans know from the introduction) said, "Some dreams just don't require interpreting."
So true. Besides, Obama looked great in scrubs.

Back to knitting. Just finished the new Matinee Shrug pattern from Two Old Bags in the new Rowan Colourscapes yarn, the stuff designed by Kaafe Fassett. I began it on a Saturday afternoon and finished while Obama spoke. I made a few alterations in the sleeve directions to allow for the heavier yarn, but otherwise it worked, it worked. Here's friend Pat modeling (it was over 90 degrees out today, so the fact that she's smiling shows what a trouper she is):

This is one comfy shrug, let me tell you. I've got another one two-thirds made -- back and one sleeve knitted -- out of some Noro Silk Garden from my stash. I'm not quite sure why this is an addictive pattern, but sometimes you just have to run with it. Oh, and Betsy says she'll be offering a class at the Winter Retreat (see www.basketsofyarn.com) on this shrug, taught by moi.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Those amazing North Carolina knitters

I'm just back from Charlotte and Asheville and some truly amazing knitters. While in Charlotte, MB and I dropped by Baskets of Yarn and got to see some finished and almost-finished Stash Jackets. I taught my Stash class at the Baskets' Winter Retreat in March. The knitters took my ideas and ran, no, raced with them. Take a look:
This is Margaret, who teaches at Baskets. She made her Stash to wear to a grandchild's wedding next month. And she BEADED it. Now, I'm a novice when it comes to beading -- I've made one beaded bag. Here's a close-up of just one of her beaded sections:
She also used silver beads, pearls, some iridescent knitalong yarn, all in shades of silver, pink and white. Stunning. And for you beaders, she used #8 beads, putting them on with a crochet hook by removing the knit stitch from the left needle, adding a bead, replacing the stitch and then knitting it. Now I'll have to try it on the silver and black Stash I have in progress.

Then there's Diane's stained glass version, using white as windowframes:

This, by the way, is my original Stash jacket. Somehow I never got any photos of it, except the one in Knit Fix. So while MB was photographing at Baskets, she caught me as well:
Then MB and I drove up to Asheville for the weekend, staying at the sunny and welcoming Cedar Crest Inn not five minutes from Yarn Paradise, which owns the literary address of 6 All Souls Crescent. It's in Biltmore Village, on the side of Asheville adjacent to the Biltmore estate, built by one of Edith Wharton's relatives. Wharton liked the place, which says a lot, since she was notoriously picky about the architecture and decoration of houses -- she and an architect friend wrote the first-ever book on interior design, called The Decoration of Houses, published in 1897. But I digress.
The knitters/students at Renee Augins's store are a pleasure. During the Advanced Knit Fix class, in which some of the fixes I show aren't in the book, everyone was jumping right in, hands on.
Here we're fixing a cable cross, no mean feat. And in the other two classes, the students learned entrelac in one morning (now you see why this post is titled with the word "amazing", because heaven knows it took me more than a morning to figure it out) and got their own Stash Jackets going. The color combinations that they've got started are stunning. I'm jealous.
All right, off to write something else with Edith Wharton references. Have a lovely day, all of you. I'm sitting in my studio, Loveday (our long-haired calico cat) curled up asleep on her window perch, next to MB's triptych of my hands knitting as words fall from the needles. Everybody should have as true a friend.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Writer's bench

Temporary time-out from knitting today. Because yesterday I spent a lovely chunk of the afternoon writing on this bench at the Morton Arboretum:

Is it surprising what a lot of writing gets done when one is surrounded by waving blue hostas? The trouble with writing is that you do it, of necessity, by yourself. Not here. And the hostas never get bored watching.

After my writing session, I took a wee walk around. Here are the surreal tulips:

Click on the photo to see it enlarged and you'll see what I mean. It's as if the tulips got together yesterday and decided, "today we will be perfect." Hah -- caught them in the act.

The back of the Arb's new visitors center:
A shot at the end of our bike ride through the east side (yes, that's my sideview mirror; no, I got off the bike to take the photo):
And finally a peep at a member of the Arb's bug sculpture show:
There's an ant parade sculpture best viewed from atop Frost Hill. I managed to pedal up Frost Hill yesterday, all the way, without having to get off my bike. Next time maybe I'll remember to stop and take a picture, rather than spending the time panting and patting myself on the back for taking a huge step to get back in shape. Since the last time it snowed here west of Chicago was just two weeks ago, we're doing pretty well getting out there biking. One friend of ours bikes to work every single day, blizzard, rain, windstorm and other Chicago-type weather, doesn't matter. Don't know how he does it. But I've ordered a poncho from L.L. Bean in hopes that I can at least bike in spring/summer/fall rain. My bike doesn't have a chain, so rain not a problem except for that getting soaked issue. And sliding. Falling. Take control! Uh, sure.

Back to my knitting.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Subtract one stripe...

Five or six years ago, whenever the pattern first came out, I made the Mission Falls Kinki jacket from their In Living Colour book out of stash. My yarn came mostly from a failed sweater that my husband had frogged for me. He's the master frogger in our house. I'd never seen the original Kinki until a week ago, when an enormous box of trunk show models showed up at my LYS, String Theory Yarn Company in Glen Ellyn, IL. Then things got interesting.

See, when I'd first looked at the what I came to call my Stash Jacket pattern, I thought, nope, way too big. The pattern is for one size that's 52" around. I thought that would look hilarious on the short person that I am. Turns out I was right:

The sleeves flow about four inches longer than my hand. The sweater reaches my knees. It's a lovely jacket in person:

For my version, I removed one stripe from each of the mitred square patterns, large and small. My stashie is the one in blues. Here's what a difference one stripe makes:

And this is after years of wear and, since it's cotton, growth. I knitted the sleeves originally to 3/4 length, assuming they'd grow, and sure enough now they're wrist length. My stashie is my all-time favorite sweater, one I wear all seasons and which I've even slept under in cold hotel rooms, since it's also my fave travel sweater. I've taught stash jacket classes many times -- last time at the Baskets of Yarn winter retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains -- because it's just an excellent way to understand the difference gauge makes. A few stitches here and there and, phew, it's a different size completely.

Stashie was probably my first experience altering a pattern to fit. Lately I've been making sweaters that can be altered to fit while I knit. The first one was the Sahara, designed by Wendy Bernard for Stitch Diva. I knit it to fit Rachel, trying it on her twice in North Carolina before finishing it back home in Illinois. Now I'm making one out of Knit One Crochet Too's Ty Dy for me and display at String Theory.

You start out with a provisional cast-on at the shoulders and knit down to the back underarm before placing those stitches on a holder (Denise needles as the perfect stitch holders, anyone?). Then you pick up each shoulder from the provisional cast-on and knit down the fronts to the underarms. Then you put fronts and back together on one needle. See all the possibilities for alterations as you go? Length of armhole. Length from armhole to waist decreases. How many waist decreases. Then increases for hip. Wendy's assumption for fit was that her Sahara would have zero ease, which looks wonderful on Rachel:

who is 25 and can wear tight.

Can't show you a finished Sahara for moi yet, having begun it only four days ago, but here are progress pix. I've just begun waist decreases.

I'm liking the way the Ty Dy stripe is working. Since south of the underarms, the whole thing is knitted as one piece, there's no problem matching stripes. I'm not sure why, since I'm not a perfectionist, but I really like stripes to match at the seams. Hey, no seams, no problem.

More on this altering-as-you-knit idea in upcoming blogs, since its my current fascination.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sideways cardigan my way

Glad to know you all love Vogue Knitting as much as I do. Here are my changes to the Sideways Cardigan pattern in the current (Spring/Summer 08) issue, as you follow through the printed pattern. No notes mean read printed pattern as is.

Knitted measurements:
Bust, a.k.a. circumference: 46"
Length, a.k.a. back length from neck bone to hem: 23"

4 skeins Knit One Crochet Two 2nd Time Cotton -- however, I've kept another 2 skeins because
my version plans to grow sleeves come autumn
Size 7 circular needles (I favor Bryspun, which are easy on the hands)
stitch markers

Lower back/body:
I started the same way as the printed pattern, casting on 24 stitches for the right sleeve. That was my gauge swatch as well. I looked at it, thought, "Yep, looks like a little cap sleeve to me," and went on. However, I cast on 60 stitches for the body, doubling the number the pattern called for, a total of 84 stitches. Then I worked in the established pattern for a total of 5 repeats of the zigzag panel.

Left sleeve: extra cast-on stitches means binding off 60 stitches for left sleeve of back. Otherwise same as VK.

For the back yoke, I picked up 112 stitches and worked 13 rows of openwork pattern: one 8-row repeat plus 5 rows of a 2nd repeat.

Shoulder and neck shaping: Cont in pats established, bind off 5 sts at the beg of next 8 rows and AT SAME TIME, when 6 rows of shoulder shaping have been worked, shape neck as follows: work 29 sts, attach 2nd ball of yarn and bind off center 24 sts, work to end. Working both sides at once, bind off 2 stitches from each neck edge twice. Cast off when there are 15 stitches left for each shoulder. I recall making up this part as I went along, since the yoke is basically a mesh pattern and therefore easily shaped.

Lower Left Front:

Cast on 84 sts for center edge. Begin zigzag pattern at Row 13. Then work two complete repeats of pattern, ending with first 13 rows of repeat.

Left sleeve: Next WS row: bind off 60 stitches.
Left front y0ke: pick up and knit 52 stitches.

Lower Right Front:

OK, the pattern in the magazine is completely wrong here. They accidentally just repeated the left front pattern. Since there are, what, 50 versions of this sweater on Ravelry, I'm guessing that most people figured that one out, or that VK has posted a correction since I made my version. In any case, here are my notes:

C.O. 24 sts for sleeve. K 1 row. Set up for pattern goes 1 edge sts/5 sts lace panel/10 sts zigzag/5 sts lace panel/2 edge sts. Begin at row 13 of zigzag rpt. Work through to a 2nd row 13 rpt and at the end of that row c.o. 60 sts. That means that Row 14, the first row of the body, is RS.


Neck trim: Pick up and knit 20 sts along right front neck, 48 sts along back neck, 20 sts along left front neck -- 88 sts. 1 row, bind off.
Buttonhole band: p.u. and knit 94 sts hem to neck edge. I cast off two sts for each buttonhole -- the four sts specified by the magazine was for huge buttons. Otherwise I basically used the pattern, just doing the usual figuring of how many stitches between each buttonhole.

These instructions are from my scribbles all over the pattern -- I'm one of those knitters who photocopies the pattern so I don't deface my copy of VK, which I save forever. Would you believe I have all copies going back to the 1980s? I'm so not a saver of stuff, but VK and Interweave Knits? Got 'em. Anyway, if you've got further questions, just ask.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sisyphus is no myth

Have you ever noticed that sometimes in some areas of your life you're just pushing that rock up the hill only to watch it tumble back, while in others you have some semblance of control? I've been knitting like a stampeding horse of late, knitting being my area of control. Since blogging last, I've begun and finished two sweaters, one lacey, the other with a mad agglomeration of cables. And have begun another comfort knitting shrug, this one out of the new Noro cotton yarn.

Pictures, you want pictures?

The mad cable sweater: See how boxy it looks lying flat?

I was the photographer on this one, standing on a chair over at my LYS while no one was looking except Karen, who dragged me outside to take this one, telling me too late to behave myself:

and this one, in which I stood still:

See how well the sweater fits? Well and truly a knitting trophy. If it sounds like I'm crowing here, you betcha. This one's got all the makings of an everyday sweater, one of those that get worn out rather than hidden in the back of the closet.

The details: Summer Hours pattern by Chris Bylsma
Yarn: Owool Balance, which is half cotton, half wool, very light weight. You'd think this sweater would weigh a ton but it's more like a butterfly. The pattern calls for DK weight yarn. Balance is definitely worsted weight, but that old swatching and knitters' math and some shaping tricks worked their magic once again.

Next up we have the cover pattern from the current Vogue Knitting magazine, made in K1C2's Second Time Cotton:
Yes, I know, the VK cover version bares midriff. This is what I prefer to think of as the adult version. If you want to know what changes I made to the pattern, drop me a comment. And yes, this pattern was written for DK weight yarn, not the worsted weight I used. More simple magic, made even easier by the fact that the pattern begins with a 24-stitch cast-on for the sleeve. Sounded like a gauge swatch to me. If gauge works, just keep on knitting, which is what I did. The whole sweater took fewer than four skeins, which makes it a cheap thrill. I kept two more skeins, because come fall I'm going to grow some long sleeves on this sucker.

Photos of cotton Noro shrug later. Right now I'm going to go knit. It's a control thing.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Immersion knitting

I think I'm in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I know I'm in love with North Carolina knitters. And I should know, after spending four days knitting/teaching knitting/fixing knitting and playing with yarn at the Baskets of Yarn winter retreat. This, my friends, was total fun. I walked into the Broyhill Inn on Thursday before lunch and didn't realize I hadn't stepped outside until the retreat was done and Betsy Macholz, the brilliant young owner/founder of Baskets, and I were driving down to lunch with the rest of the group.

It was also not until late Saturday night that I realized I'd completely forgotten about the camera in my knitting bag. That's when my husband innocently asked, "Have you taken lots of pictures?" Uh, that would be no. Mind full of yarn not pictures.

So here's what I've got:

This is Rachel wearing her Sahara sweater:
Notice the zero ease fit, as per the pattern (Stitch Diva, totally excellent). I've since stitched closed the front opening about halfway, per Rachel's instructions (also totally excellent). The painting behind her is by her mom, MB.

This is MB, in a Knitmaven production shrug:

It's the Wedge Watusi pattern by Colleen Davis, knit mostly out of Colinette Giotto ribbon. One day I will make this for myself in smaller (translation: for short people) gauge.

And here we have my one and only photo from the retreat:

Meet (left to right) Janet, Joy and Linda. On Joy's lap is Rex, who doesn't knit but knows everything Joy knows about knitting, which is lots. The three bipeds are holding up the beginnings of their versions of my stash jacket (see mine on page 100 of Knit Fix). From their Ravelry postings, it's evident that the jacket has become an addiction. Don't say I didn't warn you all. In fact, while I was there I bought some silver linen/rayon yarn to begin another stashie for moi.

All for now. If I get my act in gear, I'll have the body of a Ty Dy entrelac sweater to show you in a day or so. Don't know why, but it's been a very fast knit. Oh, and my own Sahara, in some Noro. MB is making same in a different colorway. With ease. You gotta be Rachel's age to do that zero ease thing.